The Story Of Mele Kalikimaka

The Story Of Mele Kalikimaka

Ever wonder how this Christmas time standard came to be?

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At this point in the year, it is common to begin arguing with friends and family over whether or not it is a sane choice to be listening to Christmas music. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, one song has always stood out to me and has probably been a mystery to you as well. "Mele Kalikimaka," sung by the very embodiment of Christmas Music, at least to me, Bing Crosby.

In a world where I both experienced, and listened to a "Winter Wonderland" every Christmas, a song about sunny beaches on December 25th has always stuck out like a sore thumb. So I thought I would dive into why and how it came to exist.

For one thing "Mele Kalikimaka" quite literally is Hawaii's way of saying Merry Christmas. Mele Kalikimaka is the closest way of saying Merry Christmas in Hawaiian. For one thing, Hawaiian doesn't have an "r", which is how "Merry" goes to "Mele". "Christmas" gets a little more complicated. "C" to "K" isn't too crazy, and the rest can be pieced together with this:

The only fricative is /h/. So what should they use for /s/? Well … it's sometimes /h/ and sometimes /k/. Thus the English word crease might be rendered as kaliki or kalihi. Then there are the extra vowels. That, of course, is because Hawaiian doesn't allow consonant clusters — so that /krɪ/ becomes /kali/ — or syllable-final consonants — so that /mas/ becomes /maka/.

By the way, a "fricative" is just "a consonant sound, such as English f or v, produced by bringing the mouth into position to block the passage of the airstream, but not making a complete closure, so that air moving through the mouth generates audible friction."

Okay, so now we know how the song got its title, what about the rest of the story? Well, the song was written in 1949, by Robert Alex Anderson which means it was written a full decade before Hawaii became a state in 1959!

Sadly a lot of the information I was hoping to find has been hard to get a hold of, so I'm depending on Wikipedia more than I'd like. Robert Alex Anderson, a writer of Mele Kalikimaka, was born in Hawaii, graduated from Cornell, and although he was a successful businessman, he also had a good run of writing songs, and IMDB gives him 26 songwriting credits.

So why did Bing Crosby pick to sing Mele Kalikimaka? And a great many other Hawaiian songs? Well, "A Broadway show called Bird of Paradise introduced Hawaiian music to many Americans in 1912 and the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco followed in 1915; one year later, Hawaiian music sold more recordings than any other style in the country." Bing Crosby's own introduction may have been "in 1917, Crosby took a summer job as property boy at Spokane's "Auditorium," where he witnessed some of the finest acts of the day, including Al Jolson, who held him spellbound with ad-libbing and parodies of Hawaiian songs". Then, as Bing Crosby began to build his career, Hawaii grew in fame as well.

After the Attack on Pearl Harbor brought the US into World War Two, Crosby would put his talents to use in helping keep up the morale of US troops and would do well. "In a poll of U.S. troops at the close of World War II, Crosby topped the list as the person who had done the most for G.I. morale, ahead of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, General Dwight Eisenhower, and Bob Hope." The war also had an effect on Hawaiian music, "the influx of thousands of American servicemen into Hawaii during World War 2 created a demand for both popular swing rhythm and country sounds. The western swing style, popular on the mainland since the 1930s, employed the steel guitar (the steel guitar which originated in Hawaii) as a key element and was, therefore, a natural evolution."

All of this, a young singer hearing a new style, a language re-interpreting a common phrase, World War Two, all played a role in the creation of one of the many Christmas songs we hear on the radio today.

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'That 70's Show' Christmas Episodes, Ranked

Holiday classics ranked for your bingewatch convenience.

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Last week, I ranked The Office's Christmas episodes, so this week I'm going to rank the episodes from That 70's Show, my favorite show as a teenager. Still with the highest number being the best because of how this website works.

1. Winter (Season 7)

The show peaked in seasons 5 & 6, so while this episode has some great moments, it just doesn't measure up to the others on this list. Not to mention the Jackie & Hyde drama was a real downer.

2. The Best Christmas Ever (Season 1)

The first season's Christmas episode also has some classic moments, but the comedy just wasn't as strong in the earlier seasons.

3. Hyde's Christmas Rager (Season 3)

The Christmas party at Hyde's place was great, however, the Jackie & Donna plot feels a little lacking compared to some of the other Christmas episode plots.

4. An Eric Foreman Christmas (Season 4)

I tend to skip season 4 because Eric and Donna's breakup was hard on me, but this is a really good Christmas episode. Not to mention, Kelso's Christmas special is everything.

5. Christmas (Season 6)

This episode has everything. Red as Santa, Jackie and Hyde being adorable, the school dance, Eric finally being popular, Donna's bacon, and Fez with the bullies. And the TNT scene. Everything a Christmas special should be.

So there you go. Enjoy your holiday bingewatch!

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Christmas Of Remembrance Series: My Last Letter

Christmas time is not about the gifts... It is about something far, far more special.

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Dear Reader,

Thank you for your time.

This is a series that I have dedicated to those I have loved and lost. It was merely a thought, then an idea, and now a realized creation. Christmas time… all winter really is a hard time for me. It holds this duality in my life of being both my favorite and also my least favorite and difficult time of year. It has been that way for years now.

In a way, this series aids my closure and healing further, and it allows me to tell my story in a way that, to me, is less scary (one of the many great facets of this platform). It was never my intention to write this in order to reach people, or encourage people, or serve as an inspiration to anyone. This was for me and only me. No one else. But, if these pieces of writing do impact someone, somewhere, or make them feel encouraged or inspired in some way or another, or just simply make them feel, then I hope you have enjoyed them. If I can make someone feel, then I guess I have done my job.

The life of an artist is often an uncertain one. The life of a human is a trying one. But life is a journey, and all journeys have their trials. Their tests. Their triumphs and rewards. And they all have their losses. What matters most is what you make of all of it. What lessons you learn. What changes you make. What life you create for yourself. What art you create because of it all. It can be very, very hard. But it can all be glorious at the same time.

At the heart of this series, my words, there is this deep and valuable belief of mine: Christmas (or the Winter Holiday that you may celebrate) is so much more about presents and cooking and shopping and all that other bullshit… it is about family.

The family that is related by blood. The family that surrounds your heart. Your Mom. Your brother. Your dearest friends. The bonds that make life valuable. Worth living. These bonds are soulful bonds, ones that are far more special than any mere trivial object. So… be with them. Forgive. Forget. Heal. Mend what is broken. Reassemble what has been shattered. And stop worrying so much. Laugh together. Cry together. Heal on another. Heal together. And may your new days be better, brighter, and full of love.

Happy Holidays.

Ty


A song for you...

"Sense of Home" — Harrison Storm / YouTube

If you liked this series, I invite you to check out my previous article below…

To My Fellow 孤, The Sons Without Fathers On Father’s Day

As well as this article by a fellow creator…

What You Learn Losing A Parent So Young

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