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Territory marks Christmas

American Samoa joins the rest of the United States and its territories to mark Christmas Day 2012, and for the first time in more than a century, it was already Christmas Day in neighboring Samoa, where a powerful cyclone recently killed five people and caused severe damage.

Gov. Togiola Tulafono has called on local residents to remember during this Christmas the victims of the cyclone as well as those who were killed in an elementary school shooting tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

The governor’s call was made during his Christmas address two Sunday ago, at the opening of the annual Arts Council Christmas holiday program. Togiola was scheduled to return last night from Honolulu after attending weekend memorial services on Oahu for U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who passed away last Monday at the age of 88.

Besides Samoa, other countries that celebrated Christmas Day yesterday are our South Pacific neighbors New Zealand, Australia, and Tonga.

Christmas last year brought good news for American Samoa as well as the rest of the nation that U.S. military were pulling out of Iraq, ending the war in that country. There are still military personnel —including our own Toa o Samoa — in Iraq, but our presence is much smaller.

There is still a major presence of U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan, and this includes many American Samoans, whose local families are asking the community to pray for our Toa o Samoa for their safe return along with all U.S. troops.

In his weekly radio address President Barack Obama, accompanied by First Lady Michelle, thanked “our brave troops and their families for their service” and they asked the American people to visit “to find ways to honor and support our veterans and military families,” according to the White House.

“...let’s say a prayer for all our troops — especially those in Afghanistan — who are spending this holiday overseas, risking their lives to defend the freedoms we hold dear,” said Obama.

Added the First Lady, and “remember, when our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve right along with them. Across this country, military spouses have been raising their families all alone during those long deployments.”

They also said that “we must all come together, as we always do, to care for each other during this holiday season.” (Complete transcript and video of the radio address is posted on the White House website.)

This time of the year, many in the territory are spending Christmas with their families and friends after church services last night while some church services are scheduled for this morning. 

Depending on each family’s tradition, some will openen gifts last night while others wait until Christmas morning. And there are others that may have been naughty all-year long, and might face the possibility of not having a treat for the holiday season.

Getting the right gift, or any gift for that matter, kept the territory’s highway busy over the weekend with police directing traffic on Saturday in front of Laufou Shopping Center.

Christmas eve was a full working day for the government and private sector, but many workers were home early to finish up last minute shopping that kept the stores open late last night. Samoa News understands that at least two retailers — in the Nu’uuli area — are open today for any last minute shopping.

Grocery stores prepared for the Christmas rush — and along with shops, they banked on Christmas shopping to increase revenue.

If you don’t want to cook this year, some local restaurants are offering Christmas brunch — at a special price.

And if you’re still waiting for that Christmas package from relatives and family from off-island, or even from Santa in the North Pole  in case his Reindeer-guided sleigh is unable to make it to American Samoa by midnight — here is good news from Santa’s elves at the U.S. Postal Service in Fagatogo.

The Post Office is open today from 10 a.m. to 12noon for pick up only and this will accommodate any packages and mail arriving on last night’s Hawaiian Airlines flight.

Today is a local and federal holiday so all government offices are closed as well as a majority of the private sector, including the two banks.

Many local residents are either in Samoa or heading to Samoa for the holidays, keeping Inter Island Airways and Polynesian Airlines busy, forcing the airlines to add extra flights to accommodate travelers and cargo. 

In observance of Christmas Day, Samoa News did not publish a print edition today but will return on Wednesday, Dec. 26.

Samoa News wishes American Samoa residents a safe, peaceful and merry Christmas Day.