Kalaupapa Celebrates Thanksgiving

Community Contributed

By Father Pat Killilea, St Francis, Kalaupapa

I approached the State kitchen on staff row in my Paddy Wagon for the large annual gathering of our Kalaupapa family. All had been planned and prepared. Tom and Tina Turkey were present in all their delicious splendor and in succulent good taste. Finny the Fabulous Fish was also on display and of course it would have been a yam shame if Miss Sweet Potato had not been featured in this feast. So we all enjoyed a good time and great food at the settlement kitchen, compliments of the State of Hawaii.

As most New Englanders in particular are aware, a group of pilgrims wishing to escape religious persecution in (jolly old) England disembarked from the Mayflower at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the year 1620 and settled there. After the first harvest of the following year they celebrated their arrival and their survival with the help of some local Native Americans. In 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday in thanksgiving to the Father for the blessings of the nation.

Kalaupapa, on the other hand, saw its first settlers arrive hundreds of years prior to that historic landing in Plymouth. These first settlers made their homes here on this rocky peninsula and cultivated their taro patches until they were eventually displaced by the arrival of the unfortunate victims of Hansen’s disease. Evidence of these early settlers can be seen in the ruins of their heiau, their temples of worship, as well as in remnants of their stone walls and buildings.

There is a cute story about a little girl who hated pumpkin pie. On this particular Thanksgiving Day her mother made pumpkin pie for dessert. The little girl objected but her mother insisted that she eat her piece of pie. So the little girl quickly downed the pie and the mother then said, “Let us now give thanks to God.” However, the little girl was in no mood for giving thanks at this juncture. Still her mother insisted that she could not leave the table until she had given thanks. With that the little girl brought her hands together, raised her eyes heavenward and said, “Dear God, thank you for this meal and especially that that pie did not make me sick. Amen.”

I dare to say that all of us left the Kalaupapa Thanksgiving table nourished with rich food and full of gratitude for this bountiful meal shared with the members of our settlement community. It had been a time to give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy here, blessings that others even here in this State of Hawaii do not enjoy, and I do not believe that anyone went home sick, unless perhaps they had eaten too much.


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