Custom Chief’s Day is annually celebrated as a public holiday on March 5 in the Republic of Vanuatu. It’s a day to recognize the National Council of Chiefs, or the Malvatu Mauri, which was established in 1977 to propose new ways to preserve the traditional Vanuatu way of life. The tribal chiefs are elected by members of the district councils of chiefs, and their main role is to advise the government on matters surrounding the culture and indigenous languages of Vanuatu. Although they have no actual legislative power, the government always welcomes their advice.
History of Custom Chief's Day
The Malvatu Mauri, or the National Council of Chiefs, was established by the government of the Republic of Vanuatu, in 1977, to propose ways to preserve the traditional Vanuatu way of life. The word ‘mal’ translates into ‘chief,’ ‘vatu’ means ‘stone,’ ‘island,’ or ‘place,’ while ‘mauri’ means “something that is alive.” The chiefs are elected by members of the district councils of chiefs, and their main role is to advise the government on matters surrounding the culture and indigenous languages of Vanuatu. Although they have no actual legislative power, the government always welcomes their advice.
Vanuatu is an archipelago of over 80 islands. In the 1880s, parts of the archipelago were claimed by France and the United Kingdom. In 1906, both colonial powers made an agreement to jointly manage Vanuatu through an Anglo-French condominium and the islands were renamed the New Hebrides. On July 30, 1980, the New Hebrides got their independence from colonial rule. It was admitted into the United Nations on September 15, 1981.
Through it all, most ni-Vanuatu clung to their traditions, refusing to conform to European standards. Thus, in each community, chiefs are recognized as the uppermost authority. This is why it was so important to establish a national day in their honor. On Custom Chiefs Day, the people of Vanuatu celebrate with feasts, sporting events, agricultural fairs, art festivals, carnivals, singing, dancing, and other festivities.
Custom Chief's Day timeline
France and the United Kingdom agree to jointly control the New Hebrides.
The Malvatu Mauri is set up by the government of Vanuatu.
Vanuatu declares independence from the United Kingdom and France.
Vanuatu is admitted into the United Nations on September 15.
Custom Chief's Day FAQs
What is the official language of Vanuatu?
Vanuatu has three official languages. They are Bislama, English, and French.
Who is the president of Vanuatu?
The current president of Vanuatu is Tallis Obed Moses. The prime minister is Bob Loughman.
What type of government does Vanuatu operate?
Vanuatu is a unitary parliamentary republic.
Custom Chief's Day Activities
Celebrate the custom chiefs
Custom Chiefs Day is dedicated to celebrating and honoring the local chiefs who’ve acted as a strong pillar of culture. If you're ni-Vanuatu, celebrate these leaders by appreciating all their hard work.
Honor your local leaders
Wherever you are in the world, there are local leaders who administrate and adjudicate. Give them some well-deserved appreciation as well!
Use the hashtag
Why not tell others about this unique day? Use the hashtag #CustomChiefsDay across all your social media accounts to raise awareness.
5 Interesting Facts About Vanuatu
Only 65 islands are inhabited
Vanuatu is made up of 80 islands, but only 65 are inhabited by people.
Vanuatu has over 100 languages
Ni-Vanuatu speaks about 138 indigenous Oceanic languages.
Vanuatu is home to Mount Yasur
Located in Vanuatu, Mount Yasur is the most accessible active volcano in the world.
Vanuatu is small
Vanuatu is the smallest of five independent nations in Melanesia.
Prince Phillip is Revered
On Tanna, a remote island in Vanuatu, a religious sect called the Prince Philip Movement believes Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, is divine.
Why We Love Custom Chief's Day
Culture ties us together
The world has become a global village, yet the need for our unique cultures and traditions has and will never be erased. The government of Vanuatu has done admirably well in recognizing this and taking positive steps to ensure their culture is preserved.
Chiefs preserve tradition
Chiefs are custodians of culture and tradition. In most societies, Western influence has eroded core values. All the more reason to appreciate the chiefs and other local leaders in countries that have managed to preserve them.
Leaders deserve to be celebrated
Leaders, whatever their levels are on the ladder of governance, play important roles in our society. Often, their hard work goes unrecognized, so this is an opportunity to celebrate and honor them.
Custom Chief's Day dates