Exploring New Year’s Traditions in the South Pacific
No matter where you go in the world, everyone loves a good party. And few occasions elicit the type of giddy celebration as New Year’s Eve.
Here in the U.S., the countdown to the new year usually involves large crowds of people gathered together eagerly awaiting the stroke of midnight. Whether on the streets of New Orleans, standing in Times Square, or counting down the clock standing on shores of the San Francisco bay, revelers will be sure to experience a festive atmosphere and a whole lot of fun.
Of course, New Year’s Eve isn’t only celebrated in the U.S. Countries throughout the South Pacific have also developed their own traditions when it comes to celebrating the coming new year. In the nations that produce some of the world’s finest kava, New Year’s Eve often represents a time when communities come together to celebrate the year that was while looking to what the future may hold.
While January 1st is a recognized public holiday in Fiji, the nation really spends the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrating during one long festive period.
In the capital city of Suva, you will find street parties around every corner and fireworks illuminating the sky. Those not out on the street celebrating usually take the time to spend with family at parties that bring everyone together.
Some Fijians choose to participate in traditional spear and fan dances that tell stories from the nation’s folklore. Traditionally, both women and men don the sulu during the new year season as a means of honoring their rich cultural traditions.
From Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve, the nation of Vanuatu moves from one holiday to the next during a period of incredible celebration. Family Day on December 26 encourages people to spend extra time with their families and acts as an opportunity to give thanks for those closest to you.
The rest of the week involves many familiar types of New Year’s Eve activities, such as fireworks, feasts, and live music. Communities will also gather together to spend days at the beach, attending church, playing sports, and, yes, drinking kava.
Not a lot of work gets done during this most festive time of year, but bonds grow stronger and communities remain united for whatever the new year may bring.
Unlike Fiji and Vanuatu, New Year’s Eve celebrations in Tonga are far more low-key and involve giving thanks. Instead of holiday parties on the beach, Tongans gather together and hold small family gatherings. You won’t see much joyous partying on the streets, as most people celebrate the holiday privately at home, which creates a far different type of atmosphere than what many Westerners have come to expect from New Year’s Eve.
Many Tongans celebrate New Year’s Eve by attending church, where sunset and midnight masses are held. The new year marks a time for contemplation and the reaffirmation of faith. During the first week of January, Tongans continue to pray every day for “uike lotu,” which translates roughly into “one week of prayer.”
Most businesses shut down between Christmas and New Year’s Day so that towns and villages can host a few communal celebrations. Many Tongan villages will host singing competitions during the holiday week, as villagers form impromptu bands using everyday items to create musical sounds and rhythms.
Due to the International Dateline, Tonga is actually the first country in the world to officially see New Year’s Day arrive.
Celebrations in the Solomon Islands usually take place in the nation’s small villages. Islanders who live and work in the capital city of Honiara usually return home to the village, leaving the capital quiet and to the tourists.
Local celebrations usually involve some combination of singing, dancing, and feasting, though only for community members.
The New Year offers a time for celebration and hope. Considering how rough the last two years have been for many, here’s hoping that 2022 will bring much joy and happiness to every member of our Bula community.
To our family to yours – Happy New Year!
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