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Kermet Apio's Laugh Corner

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December 2007


12 Days of Da Kine


It’s Christmas month everybody! Like many transplanted Hawaiians I have a substantial collection of Hawaiian Christmas CD’s. Hawaiian music is perfectly suited for Christmas because of its sweet melodies, easy-going vibe and general feelings of happiness and love. Of course, that may be unfair because I’ve never heard Rage Against The Machine’s Christmas Album with tracks like “Silencer Night” and “Furious Little Drummer Boy” now available on iTunes.

One of the most popular songs when I was growing up was the Hawaiian version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I’ve always wondered how that song came about and one Google search later I found a Star Bulletin article from Christmas Day 2000. The internet is amazing. I swear if there was no Google my column would always be about my childhood or plate lunch. The article said that the song “was written in 15 minutes as three friends ate Chinese food in the living room of a Diamond Head home.” It took me longer to sing the song than it took the guys to write it (As a child I wasn’t very fast at anything, but still the point is made). So over Chinese food and lots of booze they began coming up with Hawaiian versions of gifts. Okay, I have no idea if they were drinking or not but in my experience song parodies are generally born of alcohol, usually something hoppy.

The article said that the song “helped to legitimize the use of Pidgin English,” which seems odd because growing up I never really thought that the way everybody spoke was illegitimate. I found Ewa Beach to be very willing to accept and embrace the pidgin dialect. For those of you who don’t know what Pidgin English is, it’s the reason you thought your Maui tour bus driver was speaking Chinese. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the song that three allegedly drunken friends made into a statewide phenomenon.

Numbah One day of Christmas, my tutu give to me: One mynah bird in one papaya tree. Anyone who wakes up later than 4:00am knows that this is a horrible gift with which to start the holidays. Mynah birds are the most annoying birds ever. Having one in a tree outside your window is like sitting on a red-eye flight next to Urkel.

Two, three and five are coconuts, dried squid, and big fat pigs respectively. Food is always a good gift in Hawaii. With so many cultures influencing eating habits in Hawaii pretty much no dead animal is safe.

Numbah Foah day of Christmas, my tutu give to me: Foah flowah lei. This is nice but by the eighth day of Christmas the plumeria are brown, wilty, and smelling like burnt glue.

Number six is hula lessons and number eight is ukulele, which reflects Hawaii’s love for music. Notice how they didn’t include drums.

Numbah Seven day of Christmas, my tutu give to me: Seven shrimp a-swimmin'. I’m not sure I want them “a-swimmin’”. I’m thinking more along the lines of “a-skewered”.

Numbah Nine day of Christmas, my tutu give to me: Nine pound of poi. I’ve always been a bit confused at this one because I don’t know if they meant nine lbs of poi or poi that’s only been pounded nine times. Anyone who has pounded poi knows it takes much more than nine hits, so 9 lbs of poi would be the much better gift. Although non-Hawaiians would consider it the lesser of two evils.

Numbah Ten day of Christmas, my tutu give to me: Ten cans of beer. No brainer. I figured this would be number one. A beer in a papaya tree is much more pleasant in the morning.

Numbah Eleven day of Christmas, my tutu give to me: Eleven missionary. In the article they said they threw this one in for fun. Still think they weren’t drinking?

Numbah Twelve day of Christmas, my tutu give to me: Twelve television. They wrote this song in the late 1950’s so the idea of getting a television for Christmas was an incredibly grandiose wish. It would be like if this year someone got you, well, a television.

I think the success of the Hawaiian version is in its ability to relate to us much more than the original. First of all, the presents from Tutu (or grandmother) will probably be better than presents from true love (or someone you met in a bar who is between jobs). Also, we didn’t know what a partridge was. To us kids of the 70’s it was a musical family who toured in a color-squared bus and who’s eldest son was, in my sister’s words, dreamy. Why one of them would hang out in a pear tree didn’t make sense. Of course, seeing Danny’s life as an adult it makes perfect sense now. And unless you know what “geese-a-laying” are, it just sounds dirty saying it. I’m wondering if we can trade 11 missionaries for 8 maids-a-milking and a piping piper to be named later.

If you want to read the article about “Numbah One Day of Christmas” here is the url:


I wish you all the best this holiday season and I thank you so much for all your support of this column and the NWHT. I will spend the holidays like I usually do, sitting by the fire trying to catch swimming shrimp while listening to Rage with Urkel.

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