“How’d ya like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island? How’d ya like to spend the holiday away across the sea? How’d ya like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island? How’d ya like to hang your stocking on a great big coconut tree?” So asks lyracist Lyle Moraine and singer Jimmy Buffet in the song Christmas Island. It is uncertain exactly which Christmas Island they were referring to – the Australian island territory off the coast of Java in the Indian Ocean, or the small coral island about a thousand miles south of Hawaii.
However, the Christmas Island that is most prevelant in the popular imagination, and the one that Jimmy Buffet was probably alluding to, is the latter. Also known as Kiritimati, it was this island that was famously discovered by the intrepid explorer Captain Cook on Christmas Eve in 1777. Uninhabited at the time of its discovery, possession of Kiritimati passed through a succession of colonial powers, who used it for a variety of purposes, including as a coconut plantation and as a naval base.
Christmas Island is a sparsely inhabited natural wonder. It is part of the volcanic group known as the Line Islands, the largest coral atoll in the world, and is home to a diverse variety of flora and fauna. Christmas Island remains well off the beaten path for most tourists during the holidays. However, every year there are dedicated pilgrims who make the trek to this tiny island paradise in this remote corner of the world, as it does boast one major claim to holiday fame: Christmas Island is the first populated place on Earth to usher in the New Year, a fact that brought the island briefly into the world spotlight on the first day of 2000.
Christmas Island is the largest island in Kiribati, but its location nearly twelve-hundred miles south of Honolulu makes it the second-most remote and difficult to reach place on Earth, after the North Pole, to spend Christmas. Nevertheless the local tourism board is making every effort to encourage intrepid travelers to come to spend the holiday week, extolling both its providencial name and its New Year’s importance to bring in the crowds. Web: www.kiribatitourism.gov.ki (official tourism website of Kiribati)