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Samoa Travel Guide

Samoan Dancers, Apia
traditional Samoan dancers, Apia

Public Holidays and Festivals

Public holidays include:

  • New Year's Days (January 1, 2)
  • Head of State's Birthday (first Monday in January)
  • Good Friday and Easter Monday (March/April)
  • Mothers of Samoa Day (a Monday in mid-May)
  • Independence Days (June 1, 2)
  • Labor Day (a Monday in early August)
  • White Monday (the Monday after the second Sunday in October)
  • Arbor Day (the first Friday in November)
  • Christmas Days (December 25, 26)

Don't expect to get any official business done during the three-week period beginning a week before Christmas and ending a week after New Year's, as most government employees knock off for extended holidays around then and many offices will be closed. Even basic public facilities such as the post office shut down for a week at a time! Also beware of Independence Days, since the two public holidays in a row mean that all banks, offices, and most stores will be closed for four consecutive days, at least. Easter is also a bad time to come if you have anything specific to do.

Many Western countries celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day, but only Samoa has made Children's Day (White Monday, the day after White Sunday) a public holiday. On White Sunday, children dressed in white parade to church; after the service, they take the places of honor and eat first at family feasts.

The big event of the year is the Independence Days celebrations during the first week of June with dancing, feasting, speeches by tulafale (talking chiefs), horse races, and other sporting events. A highlight is the fautasi race on the Saturday closest to Independence Days, with teams of dozens of men rowing great longboat canoes. Though Samoa actually attained independence on January 1, 1962, the celebrations are held in June to avoid total paralysis around Christmas (which usually occurs anyway, however).

The Teuila Festival in early September is also a good time to be there. Among the many cultural activities are church choir competitions, dance and beauty contests, squash and cricket finals, fautasi (long-boat) races, traditional games, talent shows, etc. The popular Miss Tutti Frutti Contest for fa'afafine (transvestities) takes place on the night before the Miss Samoa Pagaent.

Once a year, the palolo reef worm (Eunice viridis) rises from the coral before dawn according to a lunar cycle (October on Upolu, November on Savai'i). The Samoans wait with lanterns and nets to catch this prized delicacy, the "caviar of the Pacific." This remarkable event takes place in Samoa, Fiji, and some other islands, but never in Hawaii.