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CHURCHES OBSERVE 'PO O MOLI' , VILLAGES SIVA & PARTY GOERS ABOUND

fili@samoanews.com
On Dec. 31, 2011, these members of the Methodist Church-Fagaima took a brief brake to smile for the Samoa News camera, as they decorate their tall man-made-tree for 'po o moli' or night of lights, which is a New Year's Eve church service tradition, introduced to the Samoan islands more than 100 years ago as a way to offer thanksgiving at the end of the year. [photo: Fili Sagapolutele]

Methodist Church members carried out an old church tradition, villagers held their own village “siva”, regular church services, and party goers at bars and night clubs abounded as American Samoa rung in the New Year 2012.

It was a typical New Year’s Eve celebration throughout the territory, the last U.S. jurisdiction to welcome the new year. 2012 was ushered in without any fanfare— not even a fireworks display.

Around 10p.m. Dec. 31, church services at the more than 15 parishes of the Methodist synod in American Samoa began their respective services, which lasted for two hours —timed to end at the stroke of midnight.

The services are known as the “po o moli” or the night of lights, where trees about 10 to 15 feet high are decorated with candy or flower leis, material, food items like chips, cookies, canned goods and boxes of saimin and more. Other moli are decorated with nothing but cash.

This is an old New Year's Eve traditional for the Methodist Church in the two Samoas that began when this religious faith first came to the Samoan islands in 1835, before American Samoa became a U.S. territory in 1900.

"While the tradition remains strong throughout all these years, it has gone through changes as the lives of people improved and living standards changed along with economic conditions of 20th and 21st century," a Methodist deacon in American Samoa, told Samoa News in the past.

The tradition is not part of the church's history but an old custom where the church set up a service of offering or thanksgiving at the end of the year called "po o moli", or night of lights.

The 'po o moli' custom was where Samoan coconut lanterns were surrounded by fragrant Samoan flowers and were an offering of thanks to God, as one year ends and the next one begins.

But with the change of time, so were changes made through out the years and the flowers, at times garlands were replaced with 'Ula Lole" or candy lei - or candy garlands.

More changes came and now man-made trees - about 10 feet or so, are decorated with the goodies. Now there are even trees decorated with dollar bills - some totaling up to $100 or more a tree, making it the money tree.

Besides the trees, there are huge baskets of goodies, which are also part of the ceremony and still considered offerings to God.

The items from the trees are offered to church elders and visitors at the stroke of mid night, while the gift baskets are given to church members. And there are the lucky ones that get money from the money tree.

Besides the Methodist faith, other denominations in the territory held church services to welcome the New Year, which has been a long-standing tradition for the Samoan islands. Some church service began just as the sun set while others got underway one-hour before midnight.

In outlying villages, village “siva” or dance welcomed the new year. Years ago, village siva was a popular event in Samoan villages and still some villages in American Samoa are observing that tradition, which brings residents together to dance and have fun.

Police vehicles were seen at several outlying villages to keep peace and harmony.

Restaurants, nightclubs and bars were filled with partygoers to celebrate the coming of the new year and many of them came prepared with a designated driver or used a taxi for transportation. People cheered and hugged while couples sneaked that New Years kiss at the stroke of midnight, welcoming 2012.

And after church many residents returned home to start their family parties that went into the wee hours of the morning. Those who didn’t attend church started the family parties early.

A Samoan tradition still being carried out today, is having midnight brunch of Samoan pudding, with tea or for others a little bit of alcohol to cheer the new year, with a lot of hope for a better life and a good 2012.

And for those of you wondering if I got a kiss for New Year - sorry, I was among those unfortunate individuals who were flat out of luck.  I was however, busy gathering news— and that is my excuse, what’s yours?

Happy New Year 2012!



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