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By Claudine San Nicolas

WAILUKU, Maui (The Maui News, Dec. 26) – Thousands of miles away from their island home in Micronesia, Kosraeans gathered for Christmas on Maui, singing traditional songs and enjoying fellowship.

"Kosraeans are very Christian, and we love Christmas," explained 28-year-old Carson Sigrah of Kihei.

Having been in Hawaii for 10 years, Sigrah said he’s been getting together with other people from Kosrae to mark Christmas. But when the group of Kosraeans established their own church here on Maui, they decided to invite friends and family from the Big Island and Oahu to help them celebrate.

About 60 Kosraeans flew in from Oahu and another 60 or so traveled from the Big Island. The crowd at the Kihei Community Center ended up being about 200 to 250 people, most with Kosrae roots.

"Everything we celebrate at home, we do it over here," Sigrah said.

Members of the group held a service with elders leading prayers. Women came dressed in pink, peach and white dresses, and many of the men wore shirts with ties.

Esau Joe, 32, of Kihei brought his wife, two sons and daughter, to join in Saturday’s Christmas celebration.

"It’s our culture, our tradition. We always want to keep our religion and our traditions going," Joe said.

"It makes me feel. . . . I don’t know. I’m happy," Joe said.

Joe first moved away from home in 1992 when he traveled to Guam to attend school. He ended up on Maui in 2001 and has been here ever since then.

Like many Kosraeans at Saturday’s gathering, Joe spends his Christmases with other native Kosraeans, some of whom he grew up with and others he has never met before.

Kosrae, an island and one of four states in the Federated States of Micronesia, is 10 miles long and 6 miles wide at its widest point. More than 7,000 people live on Kosrae where cable television became part of island life in 2001.

"I miss them at home," said Brenda Jim, 30, of Kahului. She moved to Maui about eight years ago and maintains contact with her parents and other relatives who still live in Kosrae.

"We’re copying what we do back home here. We don’t want our culture to die," Jim said as she videotaped Saturday’s service.

The event featured songs, dance and the traditional Kosraean Christmas march with dozens of people dressed in red and white, singing carols in their native language.

"Christmas is one of our biggest celebrations," said Elwel Taulung, 42, of Honolulu. He’s been away from Kosrae for 23 years, but he hasn’t missed a Christmas without getting together with fellow islanders for the holidays.

"I feel a bond with them," he said.

Sue Whitney of Kihei was invited by her Kosraean co-worker, Shrue Sigrah, to join in Saturday’s celebration.

"This is awesome. It’s just beautiful," Whitney said as she watched Kosraeans sing and march.

Also impressed with the gathering was Sigrah’s friend Army Spc. Kilioni Siniva, a Tongan woman stationed in Korea but back home for the holidays.

"This is different for me. I come from a different culture and seeing this is awesome," said Siniva, who graduated from Maui High School in 2001.

Local Kosraeans have set up a Kosraean Maui Organization, which meets on a regular basis. Group members also have established a Kosraean Christian service at 4 p.m. Sundays at the Iao Congregational Church in Wailuku.

December 27, 2004

The Maui News: www.mauinews.com


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