Merry-makers celebrate Christmas across Hawaii - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Merry-makers celebrate Christmas across Hawaii

Shopping at Pearlridge Shopping at Pearlridge
Gene Monvilus Gene Monvilus
Christmas lights near Honolulu Hale Christmas lights near Honolulu Hale
The Rontanis Ohana The Rontanis Ohana
People attend Christmas eve mass People attend Christmas eve mass
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The shopping is over, or at least, it should be. And for many, the real celebration of the season has begun on the night before Christmas.

There were last-minute shoppers hitting the malls before stores -- which had been open late -- were now closing early for Christmas Eve.

"I was just getting an iPhone for my daughter," said shopper Gene Monvilus at Pearlridge.

After sundown, another crowd got into the spirit of the season by visiting the city lights display at Honolulu Hale. For these people it's the night for lights and trees and Santa Claus. It's a local holiday tradition, even for former Hawaii residents visiting from the mainland.

"We've been looking forward to this trip for a long time," said Jennifer Rontanis, who moved away from Hawaii seven years ago. "I think this is wonderful to come back and see Santa and Mrs. Claus here in Hawaii."

"When we lived here we would come here and we would bring our two boys," said Rontanis' husband Elias. "So this was something we had to do now that we're back in Honolulu."

At St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral near the State Capitol, the sound of traditional carols on a pipe organ could be heard, as the faithful reflect on the story of Jesus Christ, born in a manger in Bethlehem, as they do every year, but with a twist, considering this year's headlines about Syrian refugees and Hawaii's homeless crisis.

"I think this year the story we need to tell is the first Christmas included a refugee family. The first Christmas included a homeless family," said Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick.

The bishop also said this year has also brought people closer together.

"When things are a little tougher, when people are more aware of their human reality, they actually connect more at Christmas."

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