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American Samoa prepares to ring in New Year 2013

Several residents of Tutuila, especially Poloa residents, are hoping for excellent weather today so they can witness the last sunset of  2012 in preparation to ring in the New Year, which will involve church services and parties.

Since Samoa moved to the other side of the dateline last December, American Samoa is now the last place on earth, along with Niue and a handful of smaller islets in the South Pacific, to witness the last sunset of a year.

American Samoa is also the last U.S. jurisdiction to usher in the New Year, while the territory of Guam in the Northern Pacific is the first.

Samoa News received word last week that some residents plan to head to Poloa late this afternoon to watch the last sunset of the year and that Poloa residents, are looking forward to sitting on the side of the road, or on the beach, to watch the sun slowly vanish in the distance. With rain early this morning we will keep our fingers crossed.

Many residents plan to attend church services both on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. 

A tradition for the Methodist Church at their New Year’s Eve service is expected to attract visitors.  The service, which is carried out by the more than 15 parishes of the Methodist synod in the territory, 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 such as chips, cookies, canned goods and boxes of saimin. Some are decorated with just cash.

At the end of the service, which is after midnight, decorations from the trees are given first to the church and village leaders, the elders in the church, invited guests and finally to church members.

Many restaurants and nightclubs in the territory are planning big New Year’s Eve parties with free champagne to toast in 2013.

Stores are expecting to pick up additional business in food and  liquor sales, and are prepared for any last minute customer needs.

Bars and nightclubs are, however, reminded by the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Board to comply with local laws, which prohibit the sale of alcohol after 2 a.m., the normal closing time for bars and clubs. Retail stores are barred from selling beer or alcohol after 10 p.m.

Police will be enforcing these provisions of the law on behalf of ABC, and law enforcement officials urge the public’s cooperation to ensure a safe New Year. Police will continue their on-going holiday enforcement program, which includes road-blocks at designated but unannounced locations.

It’s unclear whether Gov. Togiola Tulafono will sign any prison inmates’ requests for pardon as part of the usual New Year’s agenda for a chief executive.  Samoa News reported last Friday that the Parole Board has recommended to the governor a pardon for woman who was sentenced 12 years ago for an embezzlement offense.

As in past years, the sound of fireworks — illegal in American Samoa — will be heard island-wide, mixed with the noise of homemade Samoan cannons or “fagaofe” which began to sound across the territory on Christmas Eve.

Perhaps the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in the United States is the one at Times Square in New York City and workers have put the finishing touches on the crystal ball, which drops at midnight. The event will be aired live on television and watched by millions of Americans, while portions of it can be seen by local residents on CNN’s special broadcast..

Jan. 1, 2013 has already been declared by the governor as a holiday in American Samoa with ASG offices, as well as many local businesses closed, including both banks.

One major New Year’s event in the territory is set for 2p.m. Jan. 1 at the Veterans Memorial Stadium with the official Samoa Bowl X Opening Ceremony, followed thereafter will be the football match between the All Star players from American Samoa and Hawai’i.