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The Lapinha in Hawaii
Contributed by Sandy Sakai

The Lapinha was brought to Hawaii by our Portuguese ancestors who immigrated to these islands to work on the Sugar Plantations. Today, a few Portuguese families continue to put up a Lapinha in the traditional manner. Others have adapted certain features to create their own special Nativity scene.

Although each Lapinha is composed a bit differently, they all share certain elements. The “stage” upon which the Nativity scene is displayed may consist of one to seven (and sometimes even more) tiers. It can be free standing, placed on a table or built into the corner of a room. The tiers are covered with a cloth giving it the appearance of an altar.

The uppermost tier is reserved for the Christ Child, the Menino Jesus. Arranged on the tiers below are houses (casas), candles (velas), angels (anjos), and an assortment of farm animals including cows (vacas) and roosters (galos), the symbol of Portugal. The animals remind us not only of the original Nativity scene but also the “strong relationship the Lapinha has to the Portuguese farming and peasant communities.”

The Lapinha is completed by decorating it with flowers to give it more color. Small bowls of sprouted wheat are placed on the tiers along with offerings of fruits (apples and oranges) and nuts.

The Lapinha is usually displayed until the Feast of the Three Kings which is celebrated on January 6th, after which it is dismantled and stored until the following Christmas.

The above was a handout at the Portuguese Festa held at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. - 1999

[From the files of the Portuguese Genealogical Society of Hawaii]

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