Thursday, December 27, 2007

It’s Christmas time in Sāmoa


Christmas observations:

Christmas music is everywhere leading up to the holiday. More so than even the States. The best part is that most of it is traditional tunes that you guys would remember. There is something a little strange about listening to songs about “white Christmas” and “jack frost nipping at my nose” in Sāmoa. However, none of these traditional songs are sung in the same way. They are either in Sāmoan, or they have been sped up and funkified and are played over funky Casio keyboard beats.

People have Christmas trees. Mostly fake fir trees with decorations and whatnot. Occasionally some random tree with decorations.

We didn’t spend the actual holiday with a Sāmoan family, so we didn’t see the traditions first hand. However, we have been told that in Sāmoa the holiday isn’t about gift giving so much, but about church and spending time with family. Don’t get me wrong. There is gift giving. Cale went into town the day before Christmas and he said it was a madhouse of shopping. But I don’t think it is the same. The kid next door got a new bike, but he got it some time in the afternoon the day before Christmas when they went into Apia to buy it.

A brief run down of our Christmas related activities:

Paupau races

Saturday we went to our village’s Christmas games. The village is divided into five divisions called pitonu’u (nu’u means village and according to our dictionary pito can mean next, edge, border or point). Only four of these divisions compete against each other in the Christmas games because the fifth is too small. We weren’t there early enough to watch the kirikiti (Sāmoan cricket) but we did see some volleyball (voli). Later in the day we went back for the paupau races (outrigger canoes). Cale is very excited to get a paupau of his own. He would like to watch one built and then build one himself. He thinks that with a sail we could easily get from our village to Apia.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the village ended the games with song and dance. Cale was literally carried around by one faletua (minister’s wife). I am not kidding. She picked him up and carried him around. I was also compelled to dance, but no one picked me up.

That night we were invited to a birthday party (pati o aso fanau) that was also a Christmas party of sorts. One of the ministers in the division next to ours was celebrating his birthday and his son’s birthday. There were presents and cake for them. Then all the ministers and their wives had a sort of Secret Santa exchange. Of course there was food. We were given materials to make puletasi and lavalava out of and ula (flower necklace). Cale and I were also given a small round cake to take home for our holiday.

Two thoughts associated with the cake:

1. We are witnessing small ways that married people and single people are treated differently. For example, Cale and I got a cake for our holidays. Alo didn’t. However, Also is more frequently invited to to’onai’i because he is single.
2. Cakes appear to be a typical Christmas gift as we were given two.

Sunday was church and we were invited to to’ona’i (Sunday brunch) by a minister and his family. They live near Alo and the minister works in the Methodist School Board Administration building. Of course everyone spoke English at brunch, but we mentioned that we wanted to work on our Sāmoan, so they said next week they will only speak in Sāmoan. We appear to have a standing invitation to eat with them. They are incredibly nice. The minister lived in Tacoma, Washington for 20 years and his wife is from New Zealand. Their daughter will be getting her nursing degree at the National University next semester.

Monday was the Christmas extravaganza. Our next-door neighbor, the school board director, invited us to the Methodist Christmas pageant. It was five hours of singing and dancing. It is very Sāmoan for things to be a competition and the pageant was no exception. Each division of the village performed songs and dances. There was a panel of judges. In the end there were awards given out for both the winners of the games on Saturday and the singing and dancing that night.

Everyone in the huge Methodist hall was wearing white. We wore our white duds too. However, when we got there we also discovered that everyone had brought some kind of white cloth to use as a head covering. So we know that now for next time.

First each division sang a song. Then each division went up to the stage to do a elaborate singing/dancing/skit presentation. Some of the skits were pretty straightforward. Our group had a Mary and a Joseph and a live baby Jesus. However, another group did something that was obviously traditionally Sāmoan with ava ceremony sticks and fine mats and I didn’t understand any of that one.

The evening ended with a meal and I had some sort of delicious banana bread cake that rocked. I need to get a banana bread recipe.


Tuesday Gal came out to visit us and we had Christmas dinner together. We made tuna steaks, green beans and mashed potatoes. For dessert I made a pumpkin pie from scratch (I started with a freaking pumpkin for crying out loud) and Cale made apple crisp (well the recipe called it apple crunch, but I think we are calling it apple crumble as it wasn’t crispy or crunchy, but it sure was delicious). There were suipi playing and cribbage lessons and later in the night some impromptu flour tortilla making.

In general, quite a good Christmas was had.

I hope all of you in the States had a happy holiday as well.

— Sara

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