Mele Kalikimaka — Hawaiian Christmas Greeting

December 1st, 2019

___ Pronounced [MEH-leh Kah-LEE-kee-MAH-kah], this phrase is a Hawaiian greeting meaning “Merry Christmas.”

Words-Mele KalikimakaWhile it sounds ver-ly much like a foreign language phrase, “Mele Kalikimaka” is a direct phonetical translation of how Hawaiians would say “Merry Christmas.”

Here’s why: The Hawaiian language has only eight consonants — not including /r/ or /s/.
1. The /r/ we use is translated as an /l/’ sound; therefore “Merry” = [MEH-leh]
2. The /s/ we use is translated to a /k/ sound. Therefore “Christmas” =
the first syllable, “Chri-“, containing an /r/ to make /l/ sound — [Kah-LEE]
+ an /s/ sound beginning and ending the second syllable, “-stmas,” translated to [kee-MAH-kah.]

    The reason “Merry Christmas” does not have its own roots in Hawaiian language is that Hawaiians did not celebrate Christmas until the early 19th century, after Protestant missionaries arrived to teach English religious beliefs and traditions. Before then, native Hawaiians did not celebrate Christmas nor speak of it, as they had not heard of it. The missionaries presented a “Merry Christmas” phrase to translate the English words to Hawaiian speak.

Mele Kalikimaka — can you say it five times fast?
*This recorded song featuring the Hawaiian Christmas greeting, may help: Mele Kalikimaka.


This Jacquée T. ‘Love for Words’ entry is brought to you by supporting sponsors including Embroidery Plus screen printing and embroidery in Topeka Kansas.

*** Jacquée T. selects and schedules each featured Word in the spirit of writing, reading, and of improved expression. “Love for Words,” sponsors support her schedule and selection as a whole, and the and fun spirit of this series. Please check out the links to sponsor websites, one link provided per Word, and see how they may add quality to your day!

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