As far as I can tell, White Sunday is unique to Samoa, although blog readers from New Zealand and Australia can clue me in if I’m wrong. Even among Samoans there seems to be confusion about who celebrates White Sunday or Le Aso Sā Pa’epa’e or Loto Tamaiti. I got a ride from a Congregationalist Reverend to the Catholic Church in Mulivae for a White Sunday rehearsal, and as I was getting out of the car he said, “I didn’t know Catholics celebrated White Sunday.” Neither did I.
Jordan says he’d heard of it before he came here. PCT Kyle was wondering if Rome celebrated it. I’ve also heard it originated with the Methodists. So who knows, really?
Here are some facts I do know: In Samoa, White Sunday is celebrated the second Sunday in October. On White Sunday, it is traditional for children to wear formal white (duh) clothes. At church, they sing, dance, occasionally act, and recite bible verses for the congregation. After church services, they go home and eat the biggest to’ona’i of the year and many children are given ice cream and gifts. It seems like Mother’s Day for children with some Christmas and Easter children’s choir thrown in for good measure. I’m told it’s a bigger deal than Christmas.
That last one might be a lie in the sense Christmas is hugely anticipated here. From what I remember from last year, White Sunday in Samoa is the equivalent of Thanksgiving in The States; that is, it’s effectively a starting pistol for the Christmas season. Christmas Day itself was relatively low-key and anticlimactic though, whereas White Sunday is a big day full of celebration and activity. It’s a big enough day my school gets Friday AND Monday off in order to ensure students have time to get home for the weekend and return back to school after.
I bolted after mass this morning, so I didn’t get to revel in the ice cream and celebration, but mass was a pretty big deal and try as I might to resist, I got into the spirit.
Since I was helping coordinate, I was appointed at the last minute to sit in the boys’ pew during mass to keep them as well-behaved as possible and to cue the ones who had active roles in the mass. This job is just the sort of cat-wrangling you might expect. I herded the boys into the pews, I kept 5-year-old Raphael in check every time he tried to swat the kid next to him with a songbook, I hurriedly got the intercessions boys up on the altar when the priest decided to skip the creed.
Also as one might expect, there were a bunch of kids there today who’d never shown up to rehearsal. I didn’t mind at all, but it became a slight problem when one such 4-year-old got up for the dance and song portion, and then changed his mind and came and sat down in the pew by himself. He was decked out in a red bow tie, and while I had no problem with him chilling with me in the pew, I figured his parents would probably want to see him up there. I gave him a nudge. And that was all it took. He sprang right back up there.
The kids were cute and awkward, and it was moving when they dedicated the event to the children who died in the tsunami.
But I still haven’t figured out if it’s a Kiwi thing or what.
Tomorrow’s Cultural Exploration: Global Warming
I hope you had great White Sunday. Pictures below.
Kids getting art projects ready to present.
Banner created for the day.
In the pew with the boys.
The big song and dance number. I didn't notice the girl standing in front until just now. Hilarious.
6 months ago