Lotu-a-Tamaiti is a national holiday celebrated on the Monday after the second Sunday of October and this year, it falls on October 10. It honors children and has been observed by the Samoan Islanders since the 19th century.
The public holiday is usually marked by Christian church services centered on children. Children wear white and sing previously-prepared hymns and plays on the day.
History of Lotu a Tamaiti Holiday
The ancestors of the people currently inhabiting the Samoan Islands arrived in the Samoan archipelago about 3,000 years ago. The language characteristics of the Samoans indicated that these settlers were from Tonga. Over the years, the Samoans created stronger bonds with the neighboring Fiji and Tonga islands through intermarriage between Tongan and Fijian royalty and Samoan nobility. In 1722, Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen became the first European to sight the islands. Later, in 1830, John Williams, a member of the London Missionary Society, arrived on the islands, leading European, Tahitian, and Cook Islander missionaries and traders. Williams converted Malietoa Vainu’upo, the Samoan warlord, into a Christian. With his help, Williams established a Christian mission — Lotu Tahiti — and converted most of the population.
In the late 19th century, the three major powers — Great Britain, Germany, and the United States — struggled to annex the islands. By 1889, the three countries were close to going to war, but warfare was prevented by a great typhoon that sank six of their warships. A few months later, the Samoa Tripartite Convention was held, giving control of Western Samoa to Germany and present-day American Samoa to the U.S. However, the Germans had to transfer their protectorates in the North Solomon Islands and other territories in West Africa for Britain to cede its claims in Samoa. The 1899 Tripartite Convention was carried out without consulting the Samoan people. This decision caused a deep flare of resentment against the convention participants — the spark that led the island nation to self-governance.
In 1908, the Mau movement began in Western Samoa to secure independence for the Samoan people. The movement was led by orator chief Lauaki Namulau’ulu, who was exiled to Saipan in 1909 along with his family and leading supporters. In August 1914, New Zealand occupied Western Samoa and annexed it upon finding no resistance from Germany or the locals. Under New Zealand, the Mau movement restarted and gained momentum. Eventually, on January 1, 1962, Samoa gained independence from New Zealand. In the same year, His Highness Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili II became the co-head of state and then head of state in 1963. On July 4, 1997, the Legislative Assembly of Western Samoa decided to change from Western Samoa to the Independent State of Samoa.
Lotu a Tamaiti Holiday timeline
Ancestors of the Samoan people arrive from the Tonga Islands.
With the help of Malietoa Vainu’upo, missionary John Williams establishes a Christian mission called ‘ Lotu Tahiti.’
Britain, Germany, and the United States divide the Samoan Islands into Western and American Samoa.
Western Samoa gains independence from New Zealand on January 1.
Lotu a Tamaiti Holiday FAQs
Who invented White Sunday?
Christian missionaries introduced White Sunday to the Samoan Islands in the 19th century. It has since been celebrated as a public holiday in Samoa and American Samoa.
How do you say Happy White Sunday in Samoa?
On Lotu-a-Tamati, Samoans greet each other by saying, ‘ia manuia le aso sā o tamaiti.’ That translates to ‘Happy Children’s Day.’
What is Lotu Tamati?
‘Lotu Tamaiti,’ meaning ‘Children’s Service,’ is a celebration in Samoa and American Samoa.
Lotu a Tamaiti Holiday Activities
Visit the Samoan Islands
The Samoan Islands are known for their endemic bird species, sandy beaches, waterfalls, caves, mountains, and a unique culture distinguishing them from other Polynesian people. There are three options open to you if you choose to visit the Samoan Islands: you can tour the American Samoa — which is part of America’s territory — or visit Samoa, an independent Samoan nation, or go for both, which is the best option!
Watch Samoan movies
Movies focusing on the people and culture of Samoa and the Pacific Islands have been released over the years. The standout ones include “Moana,” “Samoan Wedding,” and “The Orator.” You can also check movies featuring famous Samoan individuals like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Try a Samoan dish
It’s not surprising that some of the best dishes to come out of the Samoan Islands have coconut as their main ingredient. After all, the Samoans are said to know the origins of the first coconut tree. Some of the best Samoan traditional dishes include Palusami, Faiai Eleni, and Fa’apapa (sweet coconut bread).
5 Interesting Facts About Samoa
A country with one city
Samoa has only one city, Apia, which is also its capital.
Tattooing is part of the culture
Boys and girls receive Samoan traditional tattoos as a rite of passage into adulthood.
Most of its birds are endemic
About 84% of the 37 species and subspecies of Samoa’s terrestrial birds can’t be found anywhere else on the Earth.
The ‘ie toga is a cultural value
The ‘ie togas are woven mats with the highest cultural value in Samoa and used for special occasions.
There is a third gender
The Samoan culture has a third gender, Fa’afafine, who are people that don’t identify as male or female.
Why We Love Lotu a Tamaiti Holiday
It promotes the value of children
Lotu-a-Tamaiti celebrations are focused on children. The church services held on the holiday usually have kid-based themes, such as bible verse recitals, with sermons stressing the value of children as gifts from God.
It is a time to have fun and relax
While Lotu-a-Tamaiti is celebrated on Sunday, the Monday after it is a public holiday called Lotu-a-Tamaiti Holiday. It gives family and friends time to get together, have a cookout or picnic, or enjoy each other’s company.
It fosters unity in the Samoan Islands
Lotu-a-Tamaiti is one of the many cultural celebrations the Samoan Islands share. While Samoa and American Samoa may differ politically, Lotu-a-Tamaiti serves as a reminder that they are one people.
Lotu a Tamaiti Holiday dates