Help for the holidays is just around the corner

Almost all of us will be celebrating the various holidays in one form or another. In Hawaii, it is a mixed bag because there are many different cultures, and some different religions. The purpose of this article is to make it easier to interact with others when you are with them this holiday season. These are general, helpful suggestions.

First of all, remember that everyone needs love and likes appreciation. I know for a fact that when I see someone who smiles and is happy to see me that I feel loved and appreciated by them. You don’t even have to say anything, but saying, “Oh, so glad to see you again,” just makes it more real. So be generous with your smiles and kind words.

Secondly, know the kind of party you’re celebrating. When you know what kind of party it is, it helps to know the story being celebrated. Christmas, on Dec. 25th celebrates the birth of Jesus who became a world spiritual teacher for many, teaching us about love. Gifts are given to loved ones because at least three magi of the Zoroastrian religion, believed that he would be a great leader. Often Christmas Eve midnight services are given in churches, and people sing stories of the Holy Birth, and the events around them. Family parties at home usually mean an exchange of presents, and a feast of good food often only served around Christmas time.

Members of the Jewish faith celebrate the eight days of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. It commemorates the Macabean recapture and rededication of the Jerusalem Temple in 165 b.c.e. The miracle is that the Light never burned out in the temple, even though there was only a one-day supply of oil. It is seen as a grace from God. Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah for eight days, and a new candle is lit on a special nine-candle candelabra, called a menorah, for each of the eight days of Hanukkah. Meals include something prepared with oil. Children play with the dreidel, a spinning top with 4 sides and a Hebrew letter on each side, because during the final battle, the Macabean children were told to play and act like things were normal while the generals planned a surprise attack. Gifts are exchanged for eight days. This year Hanukkah begins Dec. 17th.

If you are invited to a party from a religion you don’t know, there is a website you can use to learn about them. It is: It is also acceptable to ask if you need to bring anything, or what would be good to wear, although your host or hostess might tell you that when you are invited. At some Christmas parties, each person brings a gift and there might be a party game of gift exchange. If you didn’t know and don’t have a gift, don’t feel bad. Just don’t play that game.

Some parties are called “potlucks.” Everybody brings a little something to eat to share with everyone else. It really does cost a lot to feed a lot of people. If you bring something that you like to eat, you know that there will be at least one thing at the party you’ll like! But there are some parties where the host and hostess want to provide everything.

It’s nice to bring a small gift to the host/hostess, to show your appreciation. They might be busy when you arrive, so go find them, and let them know you’ve arrived. If you don’t have money, make a card, or fold an origami piece. The idea is that your host/hostess were showing you love and appreciation by inviting you and you show appreciation and love back by gifting to them.

Don’t leave the party without giving your thanks and appreciation to the host/hostess. Tell them something true about the party that you liked. Some examples, “Thank you so much for inviting me. I had such a wonderful time. I enjoyed seeing so many people I like at one place, and the food was so good. I look forward to seeing you soon.” I know that sounds formal, so put it in your true words. “Oh da grinds broke da mouth!” “Auntie da pahty was good fun!” “I can never get enough of your monju!” Hugs are generally good to share, but be aware. In some cultures there is less hugging, and more respectful bowing. However, a smile and a thank you work for everyone.

Another scene: The party is at your parents’ house, and we love mama, but she’s a little lolo (crazy) right now. Two words were given to me by my new son-in-law when I asked my family to suggest phrases to help others survive the season: “Yes Mom!” Planning a party and making it happen require a ton of work. Lists of who’s coming and where she’ll put them, what foods and drinks to serve and where to put them, the “setting”, including decorations of house and yard, music, even the smells people will experience, all take time, money, work, and oganization. If Mama asks for help, saying “Sure Mom!” means that it’s one less thing for her to have to do.

I was the eldest of four and became my mom’s assistant at party time. I helped her with the cooking of the food, cleaning of the house, and sometimes keeping the younger ones out of her hair. It was a lot of work, but in those times I felt close to my mom. She was counting on me, and we had some good laughs together. Another thing occurred. I learned how to give parties. My brother helped my dad with his list or party prep, moving furniture, cleaning the yard, etc. If you’re not needed right away, you can let Mom know you’ll be in your room if she needs you later. Offer to make her tea or get a beverage of some kind. You’ll both feel good for doing it.

So now the party is happening. People may come that you haven’t seen in a long time. This has good points because you love them, and possibly some bad points. Kids especially, but adults too, change in a year or more. We’re not the same people we were a year or so ago, but the people that see us still remember us the old way. It can be discouraging sometimes when we’ve made an effort to grow, and people want to remember the silly, or immature things we did before. Just be the wonderful person you are. Showing them will do much more than telling them that you are different and better.

We need to be humble, but family is proud of your accomplishments. Let them know any of your major ones. We belong to each other, and it is especially true of families. Your accomplishment is partly theirs too. They may have helped your parents out a lot when you were younger, and really care for you like their own kids.

Maybe you’ll see that cousin who used to bully you when you were younger. Now you can understand that only people who are hurting inside hurt others. Let your love extend to him or her too. Forgiveness heals when it’s sincere.

Here are phrases you can use when family and friends gather, “So good to see you again.” “You look wonderful, how are you feeling?” “Looking good Aunty. Mom’s in here …” “Howzit Uncle! Are you enjoying the holidays? Men are watching football over here …” “Let me take this casserole to Mom, the beverages are out back.” “Hey Little Joe, come say ‘Hi’ to Mom, then I’ll take you to the kids’ video, play etc. area.”

One opposite of appreciation is entitlement. Entitlement in gift receiving means that a person believes they have the right to something from parents, or friends, or whomever else. I’ve seen videos of children kicking their Christmas gifts of clothing because they felt entitled to receive something else that might have cost more than their family could afford. How does that make the parent feel? They are providing their with what they need.

The only acceptable response to a gift is “Thank you.” Focus on the thought that a person was thinking of you when they chose that gift. They bought it, wrapped it and brought it to you. The love and caring is actually the only part of the gift that will last forever, but in the meantime, if you don’t like it, smile anyway, and try to find something that is true to appreciate about it.

After saying thank you, some helpful phrases include: “The color is wonderful.” “That will go with many things.” “I’ve always wondered about those.” “Oh Uncle, I love you so much!” “Thanks for remembering me. You’re the best!” “Every time I see this, I’ll remember you.”

The other side of that is keeping the receipts for the gifts you’ve given others. My mother-in-law taught me that one. She had a drawer that she kept receipts in with our names on them in case the item didn’t fit, or wasn’t what we needed. What she was saying is that she loved us and wanted us to be happy with her gift, and that we had her permission to make it right.

If we remember that this season is about celebrating love and light (wisdom), and do our best to express them, we’ll experience a beautiful holiday even if things might not seem perfect. What is perfection anyway? It’s a thought about how things “should” be. Let’s not let that get us away from being in the moment and experiencing the love and light all around us. Blessed holidays to you!


Hale Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at


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