HONOLULU – Despite a dustup in Seattle over whether Christmas trees and menorahs have a place in that city's airport, both were put up this season at airports throughout the Hawaiian islands without controversy.
"In light of everything that's going on, we thought it was a good idea to approach the state ... and see if we can put the menorahs up there. And we got a very, very favorable response," said Rabbi Itchel Krasnjansky, director of Chabad of Hawaii.
The national Chabad organization has put up menorahs in public places throughout the country, including one in Waikiki, which Gov. Linda Lingle was to help light Saturday night to celebrate Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights.
Earlier this week, maintenance staff restored 14 plastic trees to their places at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after the trees had been removed after a rabbi threatened to sue over the lack of a menorah in the airport's holiday display.
Airport managers believed that if they allowed an 8-foot-tall menorah the rabbi requested, they would also have had to display symbols of other religions and cultures. On Monday, port officials learned that the rabbi's organization would not file a lawsuit.
This year marks a first for menorahs in the common areas of Hawaii's airports, said Krasnjansky and Scott Ishikawa, spokesman for state Department of Transportation which has authority over the state's airports.
"It's a general holiday display. We're not going to have one or the other stand out," Ishikawa said.
Each Hawaii airport menorah is six feet tall, with one each on all the major islands except Oahu where one is in the international terminal and another in the interisland terminal.
Ishikawa said the state has received no complaints from the public so far over the trees and menorahs.
Displays of faith aren't uncommon in Hawaii where sessions of the state Legislature's House and Senate open with religious prayers.
And while the historic Kawaiahao Church in Honolulu is demurely decorated for the season with two wreaths on its front door and a simple, abstracted nativity scene in a side garden, across the street at Honolulu Hale is a whole other story.
Massive effigies of Mr. and Mrs. Claus bathe their feet in a public fountain amid frolicking penguins. Next to them is a giant tree adorned with giant pieces of candy. And on the other side of the hall, a site set aside for charity groups features a nativity display by the Knights of Columbus urging everyone to "Keep Christ in Christmas" and a rainbow colored display by Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Oahu declaring "All You Need is Love."
Inside city hall, a live Santa awaits amid a forest of Christmas trees to hear children's wishes beginning at 7:30 p.m. when the elaborate city lights display that covers the grounds attracts droves of local and tourist families.
"I've never seen a Christmas display like you have here," said John Packer of Vancouver, Canada, who visited the Honolulu Hale Saturday with his wife of 49 years, Ellen.
Taking a rest on a city bench, the couple said people should rejoice in their cultural and religious differences and avoid conflicts over them.
"Give peace a chance ... couldn't hurt," John Packer said.