Does A 2 Year Old Need To Take A Nap A New Years Celebration Where Time Begins in Tonga

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A New Years Celebration Where Time Begins in Tonga

The first country in the world to welcome the New Year every year is Tonga in the South Pacific. That is because it is located very close to the 180th parallel (12 hours ahead of Greenwich). It sits directly on the International Date Line.

Tongans value their relationship with God and others. The entire first week of the New Year is called Uike Lotu (prayer week). Every day church congregations meet and pray in the morning and evening, and in between they feast together. Bands all over the island take their instruments, sometimes homemade banjos, bass and guitars, and go from house to house hoping for some provisions in exchange for their music.

The people of Tonga take the New Year very seriously. When we lived in Tonga, at 12:01 the first minute of the New Year, people started walking, trying to be the first to greet their relatives. You could see people walking through the paths and roads looking for their relative. When they met, which may be halfway between their homes, they would hug and uma (kiss). Then they would sit down and eat some cookies and Milo before leaving to find other relatives. It was a time of meeting, prayer and feasting. The older people would talk and reminisce about the old days and express their gratitude for being able to make it to the New Year.

The young men would build fana pitu (bamboo cannons) and you could hear them all over the islands thundering when their kerosene contents were lit. The boys will try to outdo each other in this cannon marathon. It sounds like a war is going on in the villages with all the cannons going off.

After greeting all the relatives, and a long nap, most go to the beach. January 1st is during the hottest time of the year in Tonga, unlike the white snow Christmases that others are used to. The whole family will go to the beach and swim. Food for the New Year is usually baked in an umu (underground oven), and may include lu pulu (beef, onion, and coconut milk wrapped in taro leaves), root crops such as taro, kumala (sweet potato), manioc (tapioca), and shellfish. The men fix the umu, and everyone enjoys it.

Not only the villagers celebrate the coming of the New Year. On January 1, 2009 members of the royal family as well as cabinet ministers and distinguished guests were granted an audience with His Majesty King George Tupou V shortly after midnight. Even the monarch tries to strengthen his relations during the New Year celebration.

Truly, the people of Tonga are proud that time is beginning in their country. Their monarch, Taufa’ahau Tupou IV fought for them to have that distinction so they would be the first in the world to offer their prayers in the New Year. They even have a hotel called the International Dateline Hotel.

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