Santa gets in the Aloha spirit

Ukulele players aim to spread cheer with Hawaiian flair

Contributing writerDecember 13, 2013 

Olympia Aloha Ukulele Pu'ukani will perform a Christmas concert Wednesday at the Olympia Timberland Regional Library.


When you read the name “Santa,” what image pops to mind? A guy in a furry red suit and boots who drives a sleigh through the snow, right?

But what about “Hawaiian Santa”?

“Hawaiian Santa is a sight to see when he comes surfing into Waikiki,” according to a Hawaiian holiday tune. “He’ll dance a hulu ’round the Christmas tree.”

You can get in the island spirit as well as the Christmas spirit and get a taste of Hawaiian holiday culture at the Olympia Aloha Ukulele Pu’ukani (translated players) concert Wednesday at the Olympia Timberland Regional Library.

“It’s an opportunity to share some Christmas cheer from a Hawaiian perspective and ukulele style,” said Sheila Leder, one of the members of the informal group of ukulele players. Leder is one of many members with ties to the islands; she splits her time between Olympia and Hawaii.

“We want to make it really festive for everybody,” said Carole Apple, another member of Oly-A UP, as the group abbreviates its name.

The group already has been doing just that on the web. The players recently made a YouTube video of “Hawaiian Santa” ( The video received an honorable mention in Ukulele Magazine’s Holly, Jolly Ukulele Song Contest.

Wednesday’s concert will feature about 17 songs, Apple said. They’ll include Hawaiian favorites as well as familiar tunes with island touches.

“The library’s interest in sponsoring this was to show a diverse side of Christmas,” said the group’s Lynn MacCauley. “We sing a lot of the traditional songs, but we incorporate the Hawaiian language. That’s been fun to delve into. A lot of us are from Hawaii, so it’s reminiscent of what we remember hearing at home.”

Among the traditional Christmas songs Oly-A UP will perform is “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” “We do it Hawaiian style, talking about poi and squid and fish and coconuts,” Leder said. “It’s a fun song. It’s quite traditional in Hawaii.”

Santa looks a little different in Hawaii, too. “He wears aloha wear bathing trunks,” she said.

The ukulele players will follow that example, wearing Hawaiian shirts, leis and other island touches. “People are encouraged to come in their aloha wear,” Leder said. “That would be more cheerful in this cold weather.”

Hawaiian culture is quite international, and the concert will reflect that with a version of “Silent Night” in many languages.

“There’s a German segment and a Japanese segment,” Leder said. “We’re encouraging people if they know another language to participate.”

And that isn’t the only opportunity for audience participation. “We will have song sheets to hand out so people can join us in some of the more well-known songs,” Leder said.

Among them is “Mele Kalikimaka,” probably the best-known Hawaiian Christmas Song. Mele Kalikimaka is “merry Christmas” in Hawaiian.

“Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright,” the song goes. “The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night.”

That sounds like quite an antidote to December’s mix of freezing temperatures and gray, rainy days in South Sound.

Ukulele Christmas Concert

What: Olympia Aloha Ukulele Pu’ukani (abbreviated as Oly-A UP), a group of ukulele players spreading the aloha spirit, will play holiday music with a Hawaiian twist.

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Olympia Timberland Regional Library, 313 Eighth Ave. SE, Olympia

Tickets: Free

Listen to the music: Olympia Aloha Ukulele Pu’ukani plays “Hawaiian Santa” at

Want to join? Oly-A UP welcomes new players, whether experienced or beginners. The group meets from 6- 9 p.m. Wednesdays at the Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW, Olympia.

More information: or or

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