Richard I don't know but I can only geuss your religious practice. I
think perhaps since you spent years living on a remote island in the
pacific you worship the volcano god of tiki taka?
No volcanos where I lived. Maximum elevation on that little spot of
coral, sand and coconut trees was about 8 feet above sea level. My
favorite among the Marshallese deities was Lorok the trickster spirit,
but people nowadays know very little about him. Almost everyone
belongs to one Christian denomination or another. Marshallese
Christmas is a hoot!
Another Christmas institution on the little island where I lived was
the ECCF Christmas Party. The island at the north end of Kwajalein
Atoll is Roi-Namur. The 80 or so American residents have been known as
Roi Rats since time immoral (sic). Every year the Rats assemble a fund
through NFL football pools, poker runs, the notorious sailing coconut
race, presided over by the Chief Nut, the Roi Rat Chili Cookoff,
attended by hundreds of Americans from Kwajalein Island down south,
etc. It used to come to maybe $15-20,000. This is the ECCF: Ennubirr
Children's Christmas Fund.
Ennubirr is the island three miles down the east reef where the
Marshallese workers on Roi live, together with their large,
financially dependent extended families. Maybe a thousand people live
on a tiny patch of coral, sand and palm trees, at least a third of
The Christmas season begins with the Army Post Commander coming up
from Kwajalein Island to light the Christmas tree. The church choirs
from Ennubirr sing a capella at the tree lighting ceremony. That is,
except for one year, when a particularly inept Colonel had pissed off
the Marshallese so badly that he and his entourage were left to light
the tree by themselves, while the Marhallese sang their hearts out for
the Rats over by the swimming pool.
A few days later essentially everybody from Ennubirr comes over to Roi-
Namur early in the morning for the all day Christmas party. For months
previously the ECCF Committee has bought presents by mail order, and
gotten together at wrapping parties. Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus have
been selected and suitably costumed.
The 300 or 400 kids line up to meet Santa and get presents. Some of
the littlest ones are scared to death and cry, because they have never
seen a ri-belle (white person) up close before, much less a big fat
loud talking one in a red suit and white beard. But their parents and
big brothers and sisters and cousins hug them and comfort them, so it
comes out OK.
They get clothes, shoes, sweets, toys--you name it. Many of these kids
wouldn't have even a ball to play with if their mother or sibling
didn't make them one out of an intricately woven palm leaf.
Then there's a big feast put on by the Chow Hall. The Marshallese
women who work there have decorated the place with palm fronds,
blossoms and fruit from the jungle. Every square inch of every wall is
decorated, as well as the awning covered passage leading to the door.
So are the chow line, the salad bar and the tables with white table
cloths and baskets of flowers. It's so beautiful I get choked up just
thinking about it.
After Christmas Dinner everyone goes to the movie theater. It has a
roof, but no walls, so you can hear the sound of the constant surf
breaking on the reef. The Marshallese sing, the impromptu Rats choir
sings back to them, speeches are made. Meanwhile the kids are playing
on the grass outside with their new toys and wearing their new
As the sun gets low over the west reef, the Marshallese head back home
across the lagoon. As the ferry and the small private boats recede,
you can hear the singing fading into the tropical night.
It's off to my brother's place in the Hill Country for the gathering
of the clan. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hannukah, God Jul
and all rest, to everybody here.