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This Christmas last one celebrated same day as Samoa

A peaceful American Samoa will join Christians around the world on Sunday to celebrate Christmas 2011 and this will be the last time the territory will celebrate Christmas on the same day with Samoa, who is moving to the other side of the dateline next week.

Residents of the territory as well as those throughout the United States and its territories  are celebrating this Christmas with an extra special occasion, as the war in Iraq has finally ended and U.S. troops have returned home or are en route back to the U.S.

Gov. Togiola Tulafono emphasized the return of American troops from the Iraq war in his annual Christmas message title “Christmas is even more special this year”, saying that this is a celebration of a joyous reunion with troops and their families who have returned home for Christmas from Iraq as part of the withdrawal of troops.

“Welcome Home our Heros. Thank you for your courage, selflessness and patriotism,” he said.

“Let us unite in our island home during this season of Advent to give thanks and praise to God for His love and countless blessings that He has bestowed on American Samoa in 2011.”  (See the governor’s message printed elsewhere in today’s edition)

This time of the year, many will spend Christmas with their families and friends, after church services tomorrow night as well as more church services on Christmas Day, because it also falls on a Sunday.

Traffic is expected to be busier today and tomorrow for last minute shopping, with back ups sure to occur — on both east and west side  — and especially around the Laufou Shopping Center.

Many shops in the territory have stayed open longer hours since late last week and will continue to stay open later than usual on Christmas Eve. Samoa News understands that at least two retailers — in the Nu’uuli area — plan to open Christmas morning for any last minute shopping.

Grocery stores are reporting that they are prepared for the Christmas rush — and along with shops, they are banking on Christmas shopping to increase revenues.

And if you don’t want to cook this year, some local restaurants are offering Christmas brunch - at a special price. (See Samoa News advertisements for more details).

Togiola in a Dec.19 memorandum says that Christmas Day will be observed on Dec.26 (Monday) and New Year’s Day, will be observed Jan. 2, 2012 (also a Monday). Therefore all government offices will be closed on these designated holidays and ASG employees working on these days will be compensated according to applicable laws and regulations.

The majority of the territory’s businesses — including Bank of Hawai’i and ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank — will also be closed Dec. 26, while StarKist Samoa is currently on a two-week shutdown and resumes production in the new year.

The U.S. Post Office in Fagatogo will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday) giving the public more time to pick up their holiday packages, but will be closed on Monday.

For U.S. nationals heading to Samoa and in need of a permit, the Samoa Consulate Office in Fagatogo is open today for regular business hours. The office will also be closed on Monday.

Polynesian Airlines is operating only two flights Christmas Day to accommodate the demand, while Inter Island is not operating, giving employees time off to spend with their families.

The latest reports out of Apia say that Samoa is also in the full swing celebrating Christmas 2011, as “plane loads” of overseas Samoans head to the Independent state for Christmas along with various family and community activities.

Samoa News will publish the weekend edition of To’asavili tomorrow but will not publish on Monday in observance of the Christmas holiday.

Merry Christmas everyone!