Christmas in Samoa

First of all, a belated Merry Christmas wish from this Malae!

It's early morning in the village. I was awake though my eyes were still sleepy and squinty. I heard the early birds - hen and her chicks - already chirping and pecking at their first squirmy victims of the new day. And as usual, the pigs gathered around the cooking hut, grunting and snorting against the horizontal wooden rails. I opened my eyes and the first things I saw were paper chains.

The events of the night before came back to me. My grandmother had stayed up to help finish our Christmas decorations. She had mixed the right amounts of flour and water to make the glue used to paste several links for the long colorful paper chains. We tied and hung them from different sides of our fale (house) in long curves and converging at the center from where a bell hive ornament was suspended.

During Christmas, the word "toy" (mea ta'alo, literally "plaything") was more common than "present/gift" (mea alofa). The emphasis was on something a kid would and could play with - balloons, balls, water pistols, etc. - and not things like clothes or school items.

In fact, as a little boy, this was the time to start forgetting about school and other less fun things. For one thing Christmas signaled the longest school break; it was also the end of the school year. Before colored paper was used for the decorative chains, pages of old school exercise books were cut up for the links and other paper creations. It was not therefore uncommon to see a paper link or snowflake cut from a page of a Health, Social Studies, Arithmetic or other books.

The family Christmas meal was often prepared early so that the rest of the day was spent with fun and games. Volleyball was a favorite, though some families sponsored lawn bowling using a regular ball and tin cans for pins. Some of these games had monetary prizes. Hence, bingo was also popular. But the malae still serves as the center of activities where the children showed off their simple yet coveted toys.

Perhaps one of the most common ways Christmas is celebrated by Samoans is with drinking parties by adult men. Consumption of alcohol - commercial and otherwise (homemade brew, watered down methylated spirit, etc.,) - is at its highest during Christmas holidays than at any other time of the year. These parties usually start early morning, and so by mid afternoon, drunks were already leaving their party hideouts and started to amble and swagger into the village malae, strutting their stuff.  Drunks actually represent a familiar sight on Christmas Day.

There are usually two types of drunks during Christmas holidays - the comedian and the bully. The comedian would start dancing and making all other funny gestures telling incoherent jokes. He also becomes very talkative, mostly nonsensical blabber. The worst that could happen to him is indecent exposure from a dropped lavalava (wrap around attire)

The bully, on the other hand, who acquires a sense of invincibility from his inebriation, would make loud kiususu (native war cries) issuing challenges to anyone. He becomes a man with superhuman powers, at least that's how he sees himself.

The comedian is usually guided home to have a good sleep, while the bully is sometimes tragically put to "sleep" by some of his assailants.

Speaking of sleep, the village rarely finds time for it on Christmas night. The nocturnal revelry punctuated by blasts and explosions fired by bamboo cannons keep everyone up and in the merry and festive spirits of the season.

And that's a snapshot of a typical Christmas when I was growing up as a little boy in Samoa. Much of it, I'm sure, is still reenacted today.   It is indeed "the most wonderful time of the year."


My Quotable Quotes

...the Samoan translations, mostly!  As far as I'm concerned, a more meritable and memorable quote in Samoan is one that rhymes. Wordplay of course is perhaps still one of the most effective constructions. Here are my Samoan translations of some common English quotes.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder
O le to'esea e tupu ai le loto faavalea
A misia, ua mo'omia

Actions speak louder than words
O aga ma taga e leotele atu nai lo upu ma faamatalaga
E leotele faatinoga ma amioga nai lo luaifofoga
E le o le fofoga ae o amioga ma faatinoga

Doubt and defeat are cousins
E tausoga masalosalo ma to'ilalo

It's better to lose with grace than to win with disgrace
E sili le faia'ina tausaafia nai le manumalo inosia

Where there is doubt, faith is not
O le mea e iai le faalotolotolua, e le o iai le faatuatua

On Debt (Both these are mine)
It's better to sleep without a sheet than on a red balance sheet
E sili le moe leai se ie ‘afu nai lo le moe ma le tele o aitalafu
E sili le moe le 'afu nai lo le moe ma le anoa'i o aitalafu

You can choose the alternatives but not the consequences
E mafai ona e filifili tu'utu'uga, ae le mafai ona e filifili taunu'uga

If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail
A e to'ilalo i au sauniuniga, ia e sauniuni mo lou to'ilalo.

Beggars don't choose/Beggars are not choosers
E le ‘ai filifili le fia ‘ai
E le ‘ai filifili se tagata ‘aisi

What Global Warming?

Okay, if global warming is a real phenomenon, then why in hades (pun intended) is it still cold?  And even without a major snowfall here - where I live - yet? Are people just making things up? Yes, I'm talking about you Internet Inventor ...uhmmmm.... yes, you Al Gore! (You have since cultivated seeming contra measures to the cold - namely beard and belly - since that infamous passionate public kiss with Tipper.)  With all the glacial sheets breaking and melting from the arctic ice fields, one would expect some summer-like or at least some mild temperatures during Winter months.

I am a tropical guy; not a polar bear. That means I don't want to be exposed to snow, winter storms, blizzards, winter air or extreme cold conditions. Well of course I have a choice of living on a tropical island but that's beside the point of this post. Not meaning to belabor the 1 and 99 metaphor, but I believe I am in the 99% of the warm-cold weather divide. And so, like most birds, I want to fly to warmer places during winter. And who should be in the 1%, you ask? Well, let's put the Eskimos, Siberians and Antarctica enthusiasts there. LOL!

This morning, snow flurries blew against my face when I stepped outside. As I drove to work, cold cars disturbed the white film of dry snowflakes on the freeway as crystalline vapor fluttered and wafted into the thick chilly air. In the distance sporadic leafless trees dotted the stiff brown sprawling fields. There were scattered snow patches on the hillsides and the contiguous white mountaintops sent chills piercing through the windows, my heavy coat and two undershirts. And I could still feel the sting despite the gush of warm air from the heat vents.

There are blizzards in some of the neighboring states and a super white Christmas is in the forecast for the Eastern seaboard. Yet global warming is still the mantra of contemporary society especially those less industrialized and less developed countries who point their fingers to their industrialized powerful emission-producing counterparts as the greedy, stubborn and conniving culprits.

To date, the whole idea of global warming is a myth and fiction to some, but fact and reality to others. The latter group have so far come up with only one indisputable proof of the phenomenon.  Here:

The proof, to say the least, seems quite convincing and credible. Aaaaaanyhow, if that wasn't much of a global warming post, I hope it's a heartwarming one. :)