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The row of green pine trees trussed from being transported looks much the same in Hawaii as on the mainland. So is the smell of pine as it is carried on the breeze across the parking lot. Even the excited voices of children ready for Christmas sound familiar.
However, these shoppers are wearing shorts and slippers (flip flops) as they search for the perfect tree. These trees have arrived on the islands in shipping containers and wait for purchase inside a huge white tent rather than a corner tree lot. And the only snow in sight is inside aerosol cans to be sprayed on the green branches before ornaments are applied.
The tradition of Christmas trees is enjoyed each year by people in Hawaii, usually with trees that are imported, just as they are in many areas of the mainland. Pine trees do grow on the islands, although their branches are spaced out more than the trees I left in Colorado and their needles are longer. They grow quite tall and bend limberly with the Hawaii winds. I see these trees towering over houses in yards on the islands commonly.
According to a local Christmas tree farm, these pine trees came to Hawaii from Australia’s Norfolk Island in the 19th century. Helemano Farms is located in central Oahu. They have grown smaller Norfolk pines (5 – 20 ft) for Christmas trees and this year added Leyland Cypress trees, which are thicker with more of a pine scent. This local Christmas tree farm was the retirement project of a local agriculture executive named Mike O’Brien, who began planting trees in 2002. He wanted to re-create the thrill he had as a child picking a tree from a farm for the holidays.
I have to admit that I was surprised to see how popular Christmas trees are in Hawaii. I remember being envious as I watched a beer commercial with holiday lights strung along a pine tree while I was still in frosty Colorado. I do see the local palms decorated with lights, but they seem to supplement the traditional pine tree rather than replacing it in Hawaii.