Did you know that the ancient Hawaiians did not celebrate Christmas until after the arrival of the missionaries? Christmas occurred during the Makahiki, the four month period of resting and feasting when ancient Hawaiians honored the earth for giving them plenty to eat. No conflicts or wars were allowed during this time. After the Hawaiian embraced Christianity, it was only natural that they adapted some of the traditions of Makahiki to the celebration of Christmas.
The greeting Merry Christmas was difficult for the Hawaiians to pronounce because English language sounds like “R” in the word merry did not exist in the Hawaiian language. Thus, Mele Kalikimaka is not a literal translation but simply how we say Merry Christmas in Hawai’i.
R. Alex Anderson composed Hawai’i’s popular Christmas song “Mele Kalikimaka” in 1949. He was born in Honolulu in 1884 and composed nearly 200 songs before his death in 1995. As the story goes, in 1949 Anderson was in his office in Honolulu when his secretary, a woman from the mainland, mentioned that she had never heard a Hawaiian Christmas song. Thus, he composed Mele Kalikimaka and it became an enduring classic. Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters made one of the earliest recordings on 78 rpm and 45 rpm phonograph records in 1950.
‘Ukulele players can learn to play my arrangement of Mele Kalikimaka for free!
This hapa haole song (Hawaiian style music with English words) is arranged in the key of D with seven chords and uses the Hum Ding-Ah Strum for ‘ukulele. It is Hawai’i’s way to say Merry Christmas to you.
FREE BUNDLE gets you four downloadable files:
- Two-page song sheets with chords and lyrics (no musical notes to read).
- Video lesson for how to play the song.
- Video story behind the song in keeping with Hawaiian oral history traditions.
- Full audio recording for you to join in singing and playing along with professional musicians The Hawaiian Serenaders.
Click to download the single song lesson today!
Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele