Back in the early 1990s, when I was a first or second year Hawaiian language student at Maui Community College, I had a brief conversation with Keali‘i Reichel. I asked him if there was an explanation in the Hawaiian oral tradition about the times that it snowed on Haleakalā. He explained that the snow meant that Poli‘ahu, the snow goddess of Maunakea was visiting her sister Lilinoe, and that the snow was Poli‘ahu spreading her cape on the mountain. I replied, “hmmm, that’s not much to write a song about.” It was not one of my finer moments.

About 15 years later, while working with Kenneth Makuakāne on his first solo Hawaiian album, Makuakāne, I wrote “Ke Aloha Kalikimaka”. Normally Kenneth writes the music to my lyrics, but since he was so busy recording his album, I wrote the melody and chord changes to this myself.

Several months later, I heard through the grapevine that Keali‘i was working on a Christmas album, and sent him this, hoping that he might want to record it. At that point I had forgotten our conversation that occurred a decade and a half prior. It wasn’t until after he recorded it that I recalled that conversation, and notice that I had included a reference to Poli‘ahu visiting Haleakalā. Talk about serendipity. It appears on his release Maluhia, featuring a beautiful arrangement by Horace Dudoit of Ho‘okena, and string arrangement by Matt Catingub.

A few years later, some students from Kamehameha Schools choreographed a hula to it and performed it at their winter concert. It appears on YouTube.

This mele laments the fact that, like the eventual melting of the snow on Haleakalä, the “Christmas Spirit” fades after the holidays and people return to their normal ways of being. Every day could be like Christmas, if we wanted it to.

Ke Aloha Kalikimaka
I ke ao ‘ana a‘e In the breaking of day
I ke anu o kaiao In the chill of early morning
I kipa ai ‘o Poli‘ahu Poli‘ahu pays a visit
I ka luna o Haleakalā To the summit of Haleakalā
Ia mauna i uhia The mountain that is blanketed
i ka hau e pāhola nei By the sparkling snow
Hehe‘e i ka pā mehana That melts at the warmth
i ka lā nō a‘e ulu ai As the sun rises above
E like nō a like Let each and every day
Kēlā me kēia lā Be exactly the same
Hau‘oli‘oli a maluhia Joyous and tranquil across the world
I ke aloha Kalikimaka In the spirit of Christmas
He wā nui lokomaika‘i A time of complete goodness
A puni ka honua nei Across the earth
Pōmaika‘i nō kākou The people of the world are blessed
I ke aloha o ke Akua mau By the love of the eternal God

One comment on “Ke Aloha Kalikimaka

Bobbolink says:

Mahalo, Uncle Keola, for sharing your mana`o on this mele. Beautiful, and it’s so nice to know this while listening.

It’s such a beautiful song, and one I enjoy year after year.

Mahalo nui, and Mele Kalikimaka to you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top