How To Introduce Whole Milk To A 1 Year Old 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. This is because it is located very close to 180th latitude (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, the congregations of the church gather and pray in the morning and in the evening, and in between they celebrate together. Bands all over the island take their instruments, sometimes homemade banjos, basses and guitars, and go from house to house hoping for their music in return.

Tongans take the New Year very seriously. When we lived in Tonga, at 12:01 a.m. on the first minute of the new year, people would start walking, trying to be the first to greet their relatives. You could see people walking all over the paths and roads looking for their relatives. When they met, which might be halfway between their homes, they embraced and uma (kissed). Then they sat down and ate cookies and Milo before heading off to find other relatives. It was a time of gathering, prayer and celebration. Older people talked and reminisced about old times and expressed their gratitude that they made it to the new year.

Young men built fana pitu (bamboo fires) and you could hear them humming all over the islands as their kerosene contents ignited. The boys try hard to beat each other in this cannon marathon. It sounds like there is a war going on in the villages and all the cannons are firing.

After greeting all the relatives and a long nap, most of everyone heads to the beach. January 1st is the hottest time of the year in Tonga, unlike others who are used to a snowy white Christmas. The whole family goes to the beach to swim. New Year’s food is usually baked in an umu (underground oven) and may include lu pulu (beef wrapped in taro leaves, onion and coconut milk), root vegetables such as taro, Kumala (sweet potato), cassava (tapioca) and seafood. The men fix the umu, and everyone enjoys it.

Not only the villagers celebrated the coming of the new year. On January 1, 2009, members of the Royal Family, along with government ministers and distinguished guests, held 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.

The people of Tonga are really proud that the time starts in their country. Their ruler, Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, fought on their behalf to obtain this distinction so that they would be the first in the world to pray during the New Year. They even have a hotel called the International Dateline Hotel.

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