Holiday highlights on the tropical island of Guam
Guam may not conjure up images of a typical winter holiday setting during this time of year, but Christmas spirit and traditions thrive on this tropical paradise.
Since illuminations began lighting up the streets of Tumon on Nov. 27, a series of exciting annual holiday events - ranging from the Holiday Lights and Snow Show in a shopping mall and reenactment of the Nativity scene on the beachside, to a New Year’s Eve fireworks display - have or will bring holiday cheer.
According to Sayumi Ishioka, who’s lived on Guam for 15 years and is part of the management at Micronesia Mall, there are a lot of outdoor parties going on throughout the season.
“Santa Claus forgoes his usual fuzzy ensemble for shorts and a T-shirt, and children spend Christmas on a white beach instead of a snow field,” Ishioka said.
Like in the States, the holiday season on Guam is a time for shopping.
“It is the busiest time for us,” Ishioka said. “So many visitors and residents came over to the mall to shop for gifts and souvenirs. I feel the holiday season on Guam is for shopping and outdoor parties.”
Approximately four miles of Pale San Vitores Road, also known as “Hotel Road” is decorated by beautiful Christmas decorations and special lighted displays featuring Santa Claus and cultural icons of Guam. This illumination project will remain lit till Jan. 8.
The Shop Guam Festival, which was started in 2012 may have helped this trend, as the global cooperative social media marketing campaign features an array of retail, dining and entertainment discounts packed into the holiday period on Guam.
However, with 85 percent of Guam’s 160,000 residents being Catholic, the season also reflects Christian traditions.
“More than the lights, gifts and parties during Christmas season, it’s the reason for the season that we have to give emphasis to,” says longtime resident Liza Francisco. “It’s the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. On Guam, it’s not as elaborate as in the Philippines. It really depends on the person. But family get-togethers and activities like midnight Masses makes Christmas a busy season.”
“Many people attend December 24 midnight mass,” says longtime resident Liza Francisco. “Normally, they have family gatherings on the 25th. Almost all restaurants are fully booked on Christmas Day, especially restaurants in major hotels during lunch and dinnertime.”
No matter what your preferences is, there should be plenty to do on island to ring in the holiday season. Get out and enjoy it!
Here’s a look at some events you can check out this holiday season.
Guam holiday happenings
Holiday Lights and Snow Show at the Micronesia Mall in Dededo
Micronesia Mall runs the Holiday Lights and Snow Show in its center court throughout the holiday season. A 30-foot Christmas tree adorned with more than 40,000 LED lights flashes in the center. Moving holiday balls and blinking strobes surround the tree, while music blasts from a state-of-the-art sound system. As the music plays, the computerized 4-D lights flash to the beat. There is a train encircling the tree that children can ride for $1. Jolly old St. Nick smiles from the center, as children line up to whisper their Christmas wishes. For more information, call Micronesia Mall at 632-8881.
Beachside Living Nativity on Christmas Eve
The Lutheran Church will hold a living reenactment of the Nativity by the beach right behind the church in Hagatna from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus, the shepherds, angels, and animals will all be there in the homemade Nativity scene. In front of the Nativity, there will be carol-singing, a reading of the Christmas story and refreshments, such as hot chocolate and cookies. Christmas Eve Candlelight Service is also scheduled for 9 p.m. For more information, call the Lutheran Church at 477-8595.
Christmas Concert by Stargazers Dance Troupe
Stargazers Dance Troupe presents “A Christmas to Remember” concert on Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. and Dec. 20, 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the University of Guam Fine Arts Theater. Advanced tickets $15 for evening and $10 for matinee performances. VIP tickets are also available. Doors open one hour prior to performance. Tickets are available from any Stargazers’ dancer, parent or at the Stargazers’ Studio. Contact 967-2238.
Jingle Bell Run
Jingle Bell Run 2015 is scheduled for Dec. 19 on Naval Base Guam. Show at 5:30 a.m. and go at 6 a.m. Open to all with base access. $10 registration fee includes commemorative T-shirt. For more information, call 333-2049.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks
To celebrate New Year’s, Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association lights up night sky with fireworks off Tumon Gulf at 12 a.m. on Jan.1. You can enjoy the fireworks display on Tumon Beach. For details, call 649-1447.
New Year’s Rice Pounding at Hilton Guam Resort and Spa
You can take part in the Japanese New Year’s tradition of pounding rice on Jan. 1, 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. at Banyan Point (upper Pool Deck), Hilton Guam Resort and Spa. $5 (free for hotel guests). Call 646-1835 for more information.
Hilton Holiday Train
Two months of construction and over 30 sponsors brought this 30-year-old tradition to life in the main lobby of the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa. The Hilton Holiday Train features Christmas-themed scenes as well as scale models of iconic Guam points of interest such as the Latte of Freedom, Chamorro Village and Two Lovers Point. Funds raised through sponsorship of the Hilton Holiday Train benefit a different local charity every year; this year’s recipient is the Guam Coalition of Sexual Assault and Family Violence.
Open daily: 8 a.m – 10 p.m.
Location: Hilton Guam Resort & Spa Lobby
Closing date: Early January
Holiday Gingerbread House
The lobby of the Hyatt Regency Guam is home to the island’s largest gingerbread house. The tradition of the “Holiday Gingerbread House” began in 2011 when Hyatt engineers and award-winning Pastry Chef Suharto collaborated to construct the island’s largest gingerbread house. The magical house stands 12-feet tall and was constructed with approximately 400 sheets of fresh-baked gingerbread bricks and 800 pounds of royal icing, festively adorned with colorful candies, cookies and sweets. Throughout the holiday season, children visiting the Holiday Gingerbread House can send letters to Santa via Hyatt’s special express mailboxes located in the lobby and hotel restaurants.
Open daily: All Day (The public is invited to decorate from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. daily)
Location: Hyatt Regency Guam Lobby
Closing date: Jan. 5
Magof Nochebuena Peace Festival
The 3rd annual Magof Nochebuena (A Happy Good Night) Peace Festival features an array of colorful Christmas light installations displayed throughout the historic gardens of the Government House in Agana Heights. The Peace Festival also features nativity displays and special scenes decorated by the villages on the Mayors Council of Guam Christmas Train. Inside the Government house, Christmas trees that have been decorated by various Guam women’s organizations are on display. Admission is free.
Open nightly: Sunday to Thursday: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Location: Government House, Agana Heights
Closing date: Jan. 3
Christmas in Hagatna
St. Fidelis Friary Christmas Village
This charming, intricate Christmas tradition began in the early 1990s with the Quinata family. The family would lovingly assemble a Christmas-themed display in their home and open their doors for other villagers to enjoy. Since then, the Christmas village grew and relocated to the St. Fidelis Capuchin Friary, and has relocated again this year to the Agana Shopping Center. It took a team of volunteers over two months to construct the stunning display that features trains, detailed houses and carnival scenes, miniature figurines, hot-air balloons, twinkling lights, Christmas carols and more. Entrance to the exhibit is free, however, donations are welcome.
Open nightly: 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Location: Agana Shopping Center, 2nd Floor
Closing date: Jan. 10
Christmas on Guam
Tumon Christmas Village
One of Guam’s most popular holiday illuminations is the Guam Visitors Bureau’s Tumon Christmas Village. The village traditionally features a variety of grand displays and amusing characters that are entertaining and fun for picture taking. This year’s village features a life-size belen (nativity scene), a carabao cart and other cultural elements, a giant 25-foot Christmas tree, and a variety of characters including Darth Vader and Yoda from Star Wars.
Open nightly: 6 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Location: Across Proa Restaurant and GVB in Tumon
Closing date: Jan. 8