Christmas time in Fiji is different from Christmas in the States. It is a commercial venture, for sure, but not as much so as in the Western World. The first sign, a Santa Clause above Courts Appliance store, appeared early on in December. The second, a painted Santa Clause on a store front window and other store decorations, appeared just this week. So far I have not seen any religious displays in connection with the birth of Jesus.
There is obvious excitement in the town as more people seem to be walking the streets shopping for gifts but missing is the mayhem of crowds and the frantic shopping discounts by large department stores to bring in the buyers. Although rich in culture and the spirit of love, Fiji is a poor country and its citizens are just now entering the dark hole of credit and weekly pay-as-you-go, lay-a-way purchases.
Here, Christmas is truly for the children. The one or two gifts at Christmas will carry them through the entire year. Christmas in Fiji also arrives during the summer vacation for the children, so they have a great deal more to celebrate. They won’t be starting school again until February. Yes, it’s summer in Fiji. The average daily temperature is 84º F and the daylight hours are extend due to daylight savings time being in affect. During the rest of the year, the daylight and nighttime hours are almost evenly divided.
The Methodist missionaries were the first to introduce Christianity and Christmas to the Fiji Islands at the close of the eighteenth century. Because it is not a traditional Hindu holiday, the Indian Fijians seem to go along with it but don’t appear as involved as the Fijians. Their large seasonal holiday, Diwali, was just celebrated in October and in many ways is very similar to the lights and sounds of Christmas. It is a celebration for the end of winter and the arrival of spring. The Fijians use the Christmas holiday to be with family. Many are traveling to Savusavu or to the other islands to share this three day affair. Christmas is a national holiday along with Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, as a result of the British colonization of the islands but not everyone celebrates the event. There is a rather large contingent of Seventh Day Adventist and Jehovah Witnesses in the Fijian population who do not celebrate Christmas or other Christian holidays. The missionaries of many religions have had a strong influence on the people of Fiji and for the most part have eliminated their spirit gods for the Christian one but more will be said about that in a future examination of Race, Culture and Religion.