Of the countless Christmas songs written in Hawaii during the past century, three stand out as unforgettable. There’s composer R. Alex Anderson’s Christmas classic, "Mele Kalikimaka," a worldwide hit ever since Bing Crosby recorded it in the 1940s. There’s Frank De Lima’s "Filipino Christmas." And there’s "Numbah One Day Of Christmas," the ever-popular "local style" version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," created by Eaton "Bob" Magoon, Ed Kenney and Gordon Phelps one night in 1959.
"It was a while before Christmas. I was sitting on the third lower floor of my house at Diamond Head," Magoon recalled recently.
Ed Kenney was there, Magoon said, and he asked whether Magoon had ever done a Christmas song, and the answer was no. "He said I should try one."
Magoon sang, "Numbah one day of Christmas, my tutu gave to me, one mynah bird in one papaya tree," and Kenney said "That’s it!"
"We wrote it in 15 minutes."
Kenney says he drew on his childhood in "dreaming up the lyrics."
"I picked (the items) because they were things we had (in Anahola) when I was there in the breaks between going to Punahou."
"Twelve televisions, because that’s what you want. Eleven missionaries because they seem to be ‘heavy heavy, hang over thy head.’ Ten can of beer (because) that’s what seems to be the libation for all of us. Nine pounds of poi would seem to be automatic … and five big fat pigs because when I was living with my grandmother in Anahola we had a pig pen and we had pigs, and we slaughtered the pigs and roasted them. Put them all together and you have 40 stinking pigs."
Looking back a half-century later, Magoon says he had no idea that the song would become an island classic.
"It was just a few moments of fun for us."
The Star-Advertiser staff presents an updated take on Hawaii’s version of "The12 Days of Christmas":
From coconut milk to painted coconuts to coconut bowls, Hawaii is cuckoo for coconuts. Tihati Productions presents them in its own nutty way. Afatia Thompson, vice president of production for Tihati, said the coconut bra was introduced about 80 years ago and is used by dancers performing the dances of Tahiti, the Marquesas Islands, the Cook Islands and other Polynesian cultures. "They’re cleaned, sanded and smoothed out," he said. "I’m assuming it’s comfortable. I’ve never worn one."
Tihati presents shows every night in such Waikiki venues as the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
3 DRIED SQUID
The folks who wrote "Numbah One Day of Christmas" were on the right track. Three dried squids come neatly packaged together at Marukai ($10.99 for Marukai members, $13.29 nonmembers) and make the perfect pupu to go along with those 10 cans of beer.
Just heat them on the grill and eat them. Dress them with a sauce of mayonnaise, shoyu and sriracha, a hot chili sauce. You may want to share dried squid only with friends who don’t mind smelly treats.
4 FLOWER LEI
For the number four day of Christmas, there’s no better way to show your love than with four flower lei, especially when you’ve made them with your own hands.
You can raid any plumeria tree in bloom (Koko Crater Park has plenty, though you’re not supposed to pick ’em).
There are so many kinds of flowers, but tutu’s favorites are the ones with fragrance. Just find the prettiest ones and put them on a string.
If you don’t know how to make lei, no worries. There’s a free class at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach in Waikiki every Friday at 9 a.m.
5 BIG FAT PIGS (IN A BLANKET)
There’s so much to love about a good hot dog but if it’s a pig in a blanket, that’s heaven with a dough halo. The dish was a popular item on public school menus throughout Hawaii, and what could be easier to eat than food that comes in its own edible container?
6 HULA LESSON
For the No. 6 day of Christmas, how about six hula lessons? If you live in Hawaii, you’ve got to give hula a try.
As long as you can walk, then you can kahalo (travel step from side to side), hela (hip sway with one foot out front) and ami (move your hip in circles).
Hula is beautiful and graceful and tells a story. Even better, it’s about love, history, ancestors, travels and the special places in Hawaii. With hula, you have so much to learn that six lessons aren’t really enough, but they will get you started.
For lessons, go to kumu hula Puake’ala Mann at the Royal Hawaiian Center’s Royal Grove on Thursdays from 4 to 5 p.m. Mann’s group, Pu’uhonua, is special: It is associated with late kumu hula Maiki Aiu Lake’s Halau Hula o Maiki.
Shrimp swim in a lot of different things in Hawaii, especially sauce. To make your own swimmin’ shrimp, try this recipe:
7 jumbo white shrimp, 8-12 count
3/4 stick butter
6 to 8 cloves chopped garlic
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
Wash and peel shrimp while cold, leaving the tail.
Melt butter in frying pan and gently saute garlic until tender and sweet.
Add shrimp to pan and cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes on each side.
Turn up heat to medium high and add a generous splash of white wine, in this case a Chardonnay, and cook until a light steam arises, about another minute.
Add salt and garnish with parsley for color. Add lemon to taste. Nice with a salad or served with pasta and the same Chardonnay.
If you don’t want to do the cooking, try the "Really Garlic Shrimp" from Blue Water Shrimp & Seafood Co. trucks at 2145 Kuhio Ave., near Lewers Street in Waikiki. A plate of nine shrimp with rice, salad and garlic bread is $12.95. Blue Trucks are open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Call 926-8981.
Eight ukulele players on Oahu are easy to find. Just call longtime master instructor Roy Sakuma, who has studios in Kaneohe, Aiea and Mililani, along with his original studio in Kaimuki. Sakuma has been teaching for more than 30 years and says he can have a beginner playing a song in an hour. He also appears at schools to speak to students about self-esteem and bullying, using his tune "I Am What I Am" as a model. Here, seven of his students and instructor Nelly Toyama Baduria strum a holiday beat.
9 POUNDS OF POI
Love it or hate it, poi is more than gray goop. A traditional staple in Hawaiian diets, it is considered a wonder food linked to good health, weight loss and the prevention of colon cancer.
The holidays usually see a spike in poi consumption, according to the folks at HPC Foods in Kalihi, which turns taro into about 30,000 pounds of poi a week.
So here’s a novel idea that flies in the face of tradition: Instead of mashed potatoes with your turkey, how about poi?
10 CAN OF BEER
Magoon, Kenney and Phelps probably had visions of Primo dancing in their heads when they wrote this enduring song more than 50 years ago, but today, Lahaina is the only place in the state where you will find locally brewed and canned beer. Maui Brewing Co., founded in 2005, produces four varieties: Bikini Blonde, Big Swell IPA, CoConut Porter and our favorite, Mana Wheat, a crisp wheat ale with a refreshing touch of Maui Gold Pineapple. Founder Garrett Marrero said the recyclable aluminum cans protect his microbrews from light and oxygen damage, and Maui Brewing’s unique plastic carrying device is a "greener" option than the dreaded six-pack rings. We think Santa would approve. (Find Maui Brewing Co. ales and lagers at select stores, and next time you’re on the Valley Isle, visit the brewery’s tasting room in Lahaina or its brewpub at Kahana Gateway Center.)
The missionary history in Hawaii is long and controversial, but there is little doubt that they had a huge impact here. Mission Houses Museum librarian Carol White shared some of her favorites for us, many of whom should be interesting to local history buffs. She had some nice details about a couple of them: Lorrin Andrews, founder of Lahainaluna Seminary on Maui, was so strongly opposed to slavery that he resigned from the mission because it was receiving funds from slave states; and Lucy Thurston, who underwent a mastectomy without anesthesia. "She was tough," White said.
On the 12th day of Christmas, you’ve got to go all out — with 12 television sets. Yes, 12.
But we’re not talking about any television sets. Tube television sets are out. We’re talking about flat-screens with all the works — the ones where you can watch 3D movies, high-definition TV, play video games, connect with the Internet and even dock your iPod.
How about the one that’s 50 inches tall? Perfect for watching the next episode of "Hawaii Five-0" or the Super Bowl.
With 12 television sets, you can put at least one in every room, even the bathroom.
Sorry, Tutu got a little carried away with all the gifts. This collection was pretty expensive, but Tutu thought you deserved the best. Enjoy!
Mike Gordon, Nina Wu, Steven Mark, Christie Wilson, Nancy Arcayna and George F. Lee contributed to this report.