From 11 December until Christmas Day, the streets of Samoa from Matautu to Vaimoso will be adorned with Christmas lights in an effort to raise festive spirits, bring families together and promote the tourism sector in the lead up to Christmas. The Christmas Lights Festival, tipped to become an annual event is organised by Samoa Tourism Authority and will encourage businesses and villages to brighten their island with their own illuminations. It is anticipated that local shops will consequently sell out of lights. The celebration of Christmas will introduce a night market and choir outside of the government building in Apia. The festival marks the beginning of December’s festivities with celebrations lasting until New Year’s Eve when Samoa will be the first in the world to wave goodbye to 2020 and welcome in 2021.
Reverend Maauga Motu welcomes the new tradition saying, “the festival will symbolise that there shall be no darkness in not only our families but our country. That we may live and praise happily, especially in the time of Christmas”. Ministry of Women, Communities and Social Communities chief Afamasaga Faaugia Mulitalo hails the festival lights as beacons, serving as “an encouragement for the country that there is living hope, despite the crises we had experienced through illness and death, there continues to be hope”.
In 2012, Samoa swapped to the other side of the International Date Line that the islands are adjacent to, thereby becoming one of the first countries in the world to reach the New Year each year. Locals often celebrate on Lalomanu beach on the eastern coast of Samoa, which looks across the ocean to the International Date Line, meaning that revellers can be the first to witness the very first sunrise of the year. New Year in Samoa would not be complete without celebrating traditional Samoan culture, or fa’a Samoa (The Samoan Way), and visitors can experience this at a fiafia night with a traditional buffet and entertainment featuring beautiful songs, graceful dances and the spectacular fire knife dance known as Siva Afi. For an unforgettable, bucket-list-worthy experience, visitors can experience New Year twice by taking a short 40-minute plane journey to American Samoa, which is 24 hours behind.
With the introduction of the Christmas Lights Festival and the chance to be the first in the world to celebrate the New Year, there will not be any shortage of festive cheer on the beautiful islands of Samoa this year.