Conventioneers’ beliefs
on Christmas respected

Waikiki puts on the glitz and glitter to welcome holiday season tourists, but some Christmas lights were dimmed for a convention of 24,000 visitors that continues next weekend.

Hawai'i Convention Center management decided not to erect the usual tall Christmas tree in the lobby in deference to the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses who gathered for an international convention last weekend.

Two hotels, where church conventioneers filled more than half the rooms, withheld decorations from meeting rooms and suites used by the church members.

Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas, said local spokesman Eric Anderson, but church members did not request that decorations be removed for the convention, which will continue Thursday at Blaisdell Center.

"We wouldn't have a tree, but we have neighbors and work in offices where there is Christmas hoopla," Anderson said. "We operate in the spirit of mutual respect, and we appreciate that people respect our beliefs."

He said they believe the Christmas holiday is not scripturally based and that the December timing reflects the pagan Saturnalia festival.

"We have a customer-driven philosophy," said convention center general manager Joe Davis. "They had leased the whole building; on Sunday we had 13,000 people here, which was certainly good for the center."

It was the largest group booked at the center this month, he said.

Across the street at the Ala Moana Hotel, conventioneers occupy 60 percent of the rooms.

"We have decorations in all the public areas," said spokesman Nathan Kam. "Where they reserved meeting rooms or suites, they have requested we take decorations from those areas, and we have no problem accommodating them."

A spokeswoman for the Renaissance Ilikai Waikiki, where the church conventioneers are 51 percent of the guests, said meeting rooms used by Jehovah's Witnesses were devoid of decorations "out of respect for them," but a Christmas tree and other decorations can be seen in public areas.

Other than the large "season's greetings" sign spotlighted outside Blaisdell Concert Hall, there are no decorations in public areas of Blaisdell Center, where a second increment of 11,000 Jehovah's Witnesses will meet Thursday through Sunday.

"It's not an issue with us," said Barry Fukunaga, Blaisdell's Enterprise Services Department director.


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