The holiday season on Guam is unlike any other in America. Santa Claus forgoes his usual fuzzy ensemble for shorts and a tropical shirt, and children spend Christmas break on beach sand instead of snow. Many typical holiday images don't apply to the island lifestyle, but the Christmas spirit blasts from every corner. After sunset, the island shines with one Christmas tradition that remains the same — lights.
Families, villages and businesses throughout the island go all out with decorations. Strings of colorful bulbs spark the season of joy that lasts well into the New Year. With just a few days before Christmas, now is the perfect time to visit some of the island's twinkling displays. Here are a few that will surely amp up your holiday spirits, and will be on display through New Years. Best of all, they’re free.
Saint Fidelis Friary — Agana Heights
Runs 6 to 9 p.m. through January 8
Admission is free but donations are encouraged
For more information call 472-6339
Holiday magic exudes from every corner of the Saint Fidelis Friary. The Quinata family transforms the friary into an elaborate Christmas village each year. This year's theme is "Manger in the City," and about 2,000 square feet are covered with miniature displays. A toy train winds through a ski loft, carnival scene and Santa's workshop. Snow covered villages dotted with Christmas trees depict families celebrating at home, while others dance and spin across the World's Fair ice-skating rink. A moving Ferris wheel lights up the carnival scene next to the Eiffel Tower. A bustling cityscape complete with skyscrapers blinks with strobing lights, just under a hand-carved model of the White House. Icicle lights hang from the ceiling, and the walls are covered with beautifully hand-painted murals. Perhaps the most interesting display is the collection of intricate nativity scenes, including figurines from around the globe. With the help of the friary, volunteers and local businesses, this year's Christmas Village is the biggest yet.
The Guam Visitors Bureau lights up the streets of Tumon with their annual holiday illumination. A journey down Pale San Vitores road is a visual appetizer, with colorful rope lights enhancing the already bright Tumon strip. The festive lights spread into the lot across from the GVB office on Pale San Vitores road, where the decor takes on a cultural flair. Figures dressed in grass skirts and coconut trees are lit throughout the night.
Individual hotels along the strip also get into the spirit with elaborate displays. One of the most anticipated is the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa's Holiday Express Train. It chugs along a track suspended from the ceiling that circles through the lobby daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Miniature hot air balloons float between the tracks, and oversize golden ornaments add some classic holiday sparkle.
Further up the strip, the Hyatt Regency Guam entices the holiday sweet tooth with a gingerbread house Hansel and Gretel would find irresistible. Folks at the Hyatt tout the edible 12-foot construction as the largest ginger bread house made on Guam. The sheets of ginger bread drizzled with icing and candy looks so delicious, Santa Clause can't even stay away. He will make a nightly appearance from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Micronesia Mall — Dededo
December 22-23: 11am, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm, 9pm, 10pm
December 24: 11am, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm
December 26-31: 11am, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm
The 6th annual Christmas Lights and Snow Show has taken over the center court of the Micronesia Mall. 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 lights flash to the beat. A super train encircles the tree, and rides are only $1. Jolly old St. Nick smiles from the center, as children line up to whisper their Christmas wishes. Pictures with Santa are $12.
Skinner Plaza — Hagatna
Guam's Chamber of Commerce and its partners throw the19th annual Christmas Festival in the heart of the island's capital, Hagatna. Skinner Plaza morphs into a land of brilliant lights that shine nightly. This year's theme is "The Gift of Christmas," and the gorgeous display is definitely a gift to locals, tourists, and military members throughout the island.