Obamas keep low profile on Christmas in Hawaii

KAILUA, Hawaii - President-elect Barack Obama spent a private Christmas Day with family and close friends, continuing a vacation that has been remarkable for how low-key he and aides have kept it.

Obama, wife Michelle and their two young daughters opened presents at their rented vacation home and planned a dinner of turkey and ham, according to aides. He planned no public events, and aides said they did not expect to release any further details.

The Obamas arrived in Honolulu on Saturday with four aides, his Secret Service detail and a small group of journalists. Since then, he has been largely sequestered at the beachfront estate.

With less a month before Obama takes office on Jan. 20, he is taking every step possible to make sure this holiday is as private as possible - something he bemoaned while walking to a driving range last Sunday.

"OK, guys," Obama said, recognizing the photographers snapping pictures. "Come on. ... How many shots do you need?"

It was one of only a handful of trips Obama and his motorcade have taken. He and Michelle Obama have visited Marine Corps Base Hawaii for daily morning workouts. Twice, he and friends have played a round of golf. He attended a private memorial service for his grandmother on Tuesday and scattered her ashes into the Pacific Ocean.

And that's been it.

While the Democratic president-elect vacations in his native Hawaii through the New Year, he and his aides have taken careful steps to minimize his profile. He has no public schedule while vacationing, although he remains involved in transition plans and has received intelligence briefings.

While Obama's aides have taken steps to keep the vacation low-profile, he hasn't been entirely successful. Photographers captured images of him scattering his grandmother's ashes from a rock ledge on Tuesday while the press corps waited in a bus. Another photographer captured the future first family - including a shirtless Obama - in the backyard.

The Secret Service has blocked the street where he is staying, citing security concerns. A few cars a day have rolled into the dead-end street, but they did not get past the checkpoint. And a few neighbors who tried to walk past the house on Christmas Day were rebuffed by agents.

One man left with an aide a Christmas card addressed to the Obama family. It featured a palm tree with the word "peace" written on it.