Obama plans a quiet, traditional Christmas


POSTED: Thursday, December 25, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama planned to stay home for the holiday.

Aides said Obama would spend Christmas Day at his vacation rental home in Kailua, opening presents with his family in the morning and enjoying a traditional yuletide meal of ham and turkey for dinner.

Close friends Marty Nesbitt, Eric Whitaker and their families were expected to drop in at various times to visit with the future first family.

With the exception of last year, when he was gearing up for his historic run at the White House, Obama traditionally has spent the winter holidays in Hawaii.

In the past, that meant spending time with his grandmother Madelyn Dunham. But she died Nov. 2, just two days before he capped his history-making run with a victory on Election Day. This vacation turned somber on Tuesday as Obama attended a private beachside memorial for Dunham.

Less than a month before he moves into his new home in Washington, D.C., Obama continues to enjoy the spoils of his native Hawaii.

He began Christmas Eve the same way he has every morning since he arrived Saturday: with a workout at the Semper Fit Center health club at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay.

Since his first early-morning workout there Sunday, crowds have gathered in the parking lot as he completes his workout.

Yesterday was no exception, as a throng of about 60 people began to congregate shortly after 8 a.m.

Their patience paid off as Obama greeted the crowd and took time to shake hands after his workout, which lasted about an hour.

“;Hey, man, what's going on?”; he said to one person, before wishing everyone “;Mele Kalikimaka!”;

He then turned to a small group of children and asked, “;You guys got your Christmas lists all together?”;

It was the third straight day Obama took the time to visit with the Marine Base crowd.

Earlier yesterday, aides released a recorded message of appreciation to the military “;serving their second, third or even fourth tour of duty.”;

“;This holiday season, their families celebrate with a joy that is muted knowing that a loved one is absent and sometimes in danger,”; Obama said in the message, set to air Saturday morning. “;In towns and cities across America, there is an empty seat at the dinner table; in distant bases and on ships at sea, our servicemen and women can only wonder at the look on their child's face as they open a gift back home.”;

Obama's message also took note of the struggling economy, the issue that is set to dominate his agenda when he takes office on Jan. 20.

The Labor Department said earlier this month that employers cut a net total of 533,000 jobs in November, sending the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent, the highest in 15 years.

“;These are also tough times for many Americans struggling in our sluggish economy,”; Obama said. “;As we count the higher blessings of faith and family, we know that millions of Americans don't have a job. Many more are struggling to pay the bills or stay in their homes. From students to seniors, the future seems uncertain.”;

Obama spent most of yesterday afternoon on the links at Mid-Pacific Country Club, about a 10-minute drive from his vacation rental.

There he was joined by close friends Whitaker and Eugene Kang, among others, for a round that lasted about five hours before they called it a day after getting through 15 holes.

As has happened wherever he has gone in Hawaii, a small crowd gathered after word spread of Obama's presence.

Before departing, Obama took a few minutes to shake hands and meet some of those who assembled around the putting green near the country club's parking lot.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.