Will Santa still find us on the beach?
September 13, 2010 2:08 PM   Subscribe

How can I make our Maui condo Christmas feel, well, sufficiently Christmassy for my children (and for myself, as I am an embarrassingly huge traditional-Christmas freak)?

Heading to Maui for two weeks (yay!) at Christmas this year. We will be traveling with our three children, ages 13, 4 and 1. My folks and my sister will be there, too. We'll be staying in a 3 bedroom condo where we've stayed many times before. We all love to cook, and will hit Costco and get groceries first thing. Ideas for festive dinners that still seem like Hawaii? That work in hot weather? We have previously loved brunch at Grand Wailea, any idea about festive holiday meal happenings on the island?

We can ship some gifts ahead but will try to keep gift giving down a bit this year. What are great gift ideas that are relatively small? Gift cards, jewelry, and makeup are things I have thought of. Gifts of experiences are great ideas (dad just purchased a sunset cruise for us all, for instance)-other ideas?

I love the anticipation of Christmas, and the decorating, and I want to make the condo have a little of that Christmas vibe. I think we can bring some ornaments and strings of lights-is it possible to buy a small tree there at a not absolutely insane price? What other small touches can we add that would be available there or easily brought with us?

A little more background: I grew up in MOntana but live in Oregon now-even Oregon winters don't feel quite festive enough since there isn't normally snow where we live. I have spent several Christmases as a child in the Southern Hemisphere and they just were never quite right. We also are big gift givers at Christmas, so cutting back makes me a little worried, even though I absolutely agree it's the way to go (both due to money and to space).
posted by purenitrous to Travel & Transportation around Maui, HI (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There's a Costco outside of the larger airport in Maui. When I went there for Thanksgiving, I got a turkey there and cooked it on the first day of the trip so we had leftover meat the rest of the time. It was quite festive (and pineapple goes well with cranberries). I'd imagine they'd have some traditional Christmasy food there for you to feed the crew with. Don't rule out the traditionalness of a big, home cooked dinner (especially on an island where food is SO expensive).

When I was stuck in Mexico for Christmas, I made my daughter a Christmas tree out of rolled up newspaper (although I made a much bigger one with lots more paper). You could spray it green and make decorations with the kids out of shells, tinfoil, etc. Would be more fun than store bought ornaments anyway.

If you do stockings, bring those with hidden in your suitcase and surprise people with filled stockings. Random stuff from the ABC Store should be very St. Nick-like.
posted by Gucky at 2:20 PM on September 13, 2010

There's a huge Hawaiian Christmas tradition that revolves around the kitschy, tiki imagery of "Santa on a snowboard" and "snow on a palm tree." Run with that idea. Trinkets and such are not hard to find.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:21 PM on September 13, 2010

Honestly I don't think festooning your tropical paradise with santa sleighs and snow ever works. Trying to replicate the Christmas of home in a vastly different environment has unfailingly been a disappointment for me.

My approach in those circumstances is to just embrace the fact that This Christmas Will Be Different and roll with it. The best Christmas I remember as a kid we spent in a similar condo and we decorated a ficus tree indoors, strung lights and made our own traditional decorations with popcorn strings and candy apples tied to the tree with wired ribbons, and brought our own star. The rule for gift giving was that we gave stocking presents only, so everything was small but some of them were nice (you can fit a Nintendo DS in a stocking!) On top of that, Santa left presents for the household under the tree, and that was family games like Monopoly and Twister we played all through that vacation.

It worked really well and the fact is was so different threw off the normal grabby expectation for gifts - we all really enjoyed it.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:24 PM on September 13, 2010

I spent Christmas in Hawaii last year with my then-3-year-old, and this is what we did:

Before we left, we found a small (about a foot high) fake tree, with tiny ornaments, lights, etc. The kids will love it. We also brought our Christmas stockings, and almost all of our presents were small enough to fit in a stocking. Our traveling companions brought a string of lights & put it on a palm tree in their room, and it was plenty festive.

As for experiences, we did a whale-watching cruise that was a lot of fun (and we saw lots of whales).

I grew up going south for Christmas, so it has always meant warm weather to me. Let the kids know that Santa doesn't need a chimney, he can land the reindeer on the lanai.
posted by mogget at 2:26 PM on September 13, 2010

Best answer: I asked a similar question a few years back but it related to being in Arizona for Christmas (and being far from family). However, a lot of answers were quite helpful, especially this one:

Oh boy, do I ever sympathize. I've had the same problem (though not quite for the same reasons) for the last few years, but this year I finally feel like I might be getting my Christmas groove back. Some thoughts that might help:

1. Regarding warm weather Christmases: Since we got married, my husband and I alternate between Hawaii (his family) and Georgia (my family) for Christmas. The first few Hawaii christmases were VERY tough for me, from a Christmas spirit perspective (admittedly not so tough from an oh-gee-I'm-in-Hawaii perspective). I decided to actively seek out warm weather-specific and Hawaii-specific Christmasy things to help me make the mental leap to "warm = Christmas." For example, Christmas music with a bit of a warm-weather vibe (e.g. hawaiian artists, Beach Boys, Chris Isaak or Jimmy Buffett). Or the palm tree next to the higway that somebody covers in christmas lights (just like in the Corona commercial). Arizona must have something going on for Christmas (perhaps some Arizona MeFites can chime in). Seek it out. Go overboard in your quest for Christmas stimuli and it will help.

2. Regarding new traditions -- try to see this as an incredible opportunity to create exactly the Christmas you want for your children. You have a blank slate. What have you always wanted your children to do/see on Christmas? Look for activities where you do things together, because that's what they will remember later on. Do you bake? Make christmas cookies and let the kids help you decorate (these can double as the gifts you send to your extended family). If you don't bake, buy graham crackers, icing, and candy and make "gingerbread" houses. Musically inclined? Do a christmas eve singalong. Tech-savvy? Have the kids "help" you make iMovies, photo collages, or even Christmas mix CDs to send to the extended family. When they get a little older, you might consider starting a tradition of volunteering (food bank, toy drives, etc.). So many possibilities...

3. General thoughts: Being away from family at Christmas is hard emotionally, but it's also hard logistically -- presents to ship, etc. Accept that there's going to be some extra stress because of this, and do what you can to mitigate. Look for areas to reduce stress and effort. This goes back to the blank slate thing -- don't do things just because you think you ought to (e.g. Christmas dinner -- if you're cooking a ham, a turkey, and a duck just because that's what your mom did, take a step back... do you actually like ham, turkey, AND duck? what about a honeybaked ham instead? or no duck? Or chuck it all and have LOBSTER!). Again, use this situation to suss out what REALLY matters to you about Christmas, and focus on that.

Lastly, give it time. Be patient with yourself... there's usually a guilt element present in this particular brand of Scrooginess that only compounds the problem. So let it go, and do the best you can.

I've rambled far too long. My apologies. Good luck.
posted by somanyamys at 7:49 AM on December 5, 2006 [marked as best answer | unmark] [+] [!]

posted by Sassyfras at 2:33 PM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

We had a Christmas on Maui and being used to the snow covered December of Ontario, it was weird. We rolled with it, still had turkey and the works, but I think we went to the beach. I don't remember real trees being available, but you could probably find a decent artificial one (we had an outdoor light-up stick tree; again, weird, but awesome) and decorated it with Santa's on surf boards etc. In hindsight I would've added more traditional Hawaiian stuff to it. I LOVE haupia ice cream, but now I can't find it, I would've made a haupia pie from scratch for Christmas dessert. And served it with haupia ice cream. Mmmm...
posted by Carlotta Bananas at 2:33 PM on September 13, 2010

Bring pine or gingerbread or cinnamon scented candles. Easy to carry, they pack a lot of Christmasy atmosphere. If you have a favorite Christmas cookie recipe that wouldn't be too tough to make (depending on the gear you have in the condo kitchen) that would probably go a long way toward making the place feel like it's Christmas.
posted by corey flood at 2:42 PM on September 13, 2010

FWIW, the Grand Wailea is always decked out for Christmas with lots of trees and stuff. I'm sure many other resorts are too. Go check them out. I personally would kill to be in Maui at Christmas every year.
posted by sharding at 2:44 PM on September 13, 2010

One year we had a lot of family at a summer cottage and it was cold and rainy. Since we were not going to be together for Christmas, and it was so cold, we had Christmas in July with homemade ornaments on a branch, Turkey dinner, carols, and homemade gifts. A traditional Christmas is based on England, and, by extension, New England. But the spirit of Christmas, for me, was brought to life with the homemade decorations we made, and the fun we had together making them.

Definitely bring your stockings from home. And make a gingerbread house, and decorate it; it smells like Christmas and is fun.
posted by theora55 at 2:47 PM on September 13, 2010

Make a mix cd of every version of Mele Kalikimaka you can find!
posted by padraigin at 3:18 PM on September 13, 2010

Best answer: Consider buying little gifts, but wrapping them creatively, in many or giant boxes. You have to transport the gifts there and home again, but that doesn't mean you can't buy wrapping and supplies locally and go to town.

My brother once wrapped a watch in a box from a pair of ski boots, for example, and I had to go searching through a whole random bunch of hats, mitts and gloves (that I knew weren't my present because they were hats, mitts and gloves we already owned) to figure out what my actual gift was.

Or do nesting boxes, each individually wrapped down to a smaller box with the actual present in it.

Wrap a small present with alternating layers of wrapping paper and layers out of a children's puzzle book or coloring book. Encourage the children to solve / color as they unwrap, or after they unwrap.

Opening gifts is a big, fun part of Christmas, and cutting back can lop a lot of time out of that big fun morning, but if you make the unwrapping entertaining and long-lasting, you can stretch it back out again.

All of this is, of course, ridiculously non-environmentally friendly, but so were the additional gifts you'd have bought them if you were at home.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:29 PM on September 13, 2010

Best answer: I live on Maui. It may seem odd, but the whole Christmas, North Pole, and Santa thing is really big here. Maui is very Christian, so it makes sense that Christmas would be a big event. The Santa on a surfboard is more of tourist thing.

You can get a tree and lots of ornaments at Kmart, Walmart, Sears, Lowes, Home Depot, or Costco. Trees go really fast, so don't wait to buy one. The cheapest live trees are at Walmart. There are also Christmas tree farms where you can pick your tree and have it cut down for you. These are real pine trees, like balsam (not Norfolk pines). You can get beautiful fir and pine wreaths at Costco.

There are also Christmas house tours, where you can go on a tour of houses decked out for Christmas. Like on the mainland, some people go nuts with lights and outdoor decorations. My house is in a tropical-jungle-y area of the island. I go all out for a traditional Christmas.

As for presents, you can go to Walmart or Kmart for toys. There are also a lot of craft fairs around Christmas time, they are good for buying gifts. Paia is a fun place to shop.

There are a lot of family events around Christmas (bell concerts, choirs, ballet), there will be many Christmas-related things for you to do.
posted by fifilaru at 4:31 PM on September 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

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