When you’re thousands miles away from home for Christmas

Christmas. Many people are thinking about sitting around an open fire, Slade on the stereo, a pot of mulled wine in between your frosty fingers, surrounded by family and friends, stuffed from a traditional dinner and exhausted from all the gift giving and taking. 

Christmas for so many of us means this scene, and most importantly, being home with the people you love the most.

But for many of us, many of us travellers especially, Christmas can take on a different meaning. 

This year I’ve spent the time of contemplation on the other side of the world, far away from home, in Samoa which has been a completely new experience. 

Spending time on white sand beaches under swaying coconut trees and sitting in an open fale in the small village Le’auva’a on a pleasantly thirty something degree day.  

Music filters the air everywhere – Christian rap, pop, reggae – all seem to have a Christmas theme. 

Christmas in Samoa is about togetherness and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Although giving gifts at Christmas time was a concept introduced by Palagi, Samoans have adopted this custom with relish. 

Church activities play a prominent role in the festivities. 

Choirs ring in the time of contemplation and accompany it to the very end. 

On Christmas morning thousands of umu-fires burn all over Samoa. 

The food cooking is more plentiful and varied. Special culinary dishes will be prepared especially for this day. 

The Christmas day begins with church and a sense of renewal takes place as everyone remembers the miracle of Christ’s birth. 

Afterwards food, presents, some noisy games, traditional dancing or a leisurely nap have filled the Christmas day. 

Even if everything has been quite different, one thing did not change. 

I haven’t been alone. I’ve been surrounded by my Samoan host family and new friends. 

It was a great opportunity to see how other cultures celebrate Christmas.

Safe to say, this was no Christmas I had imagined, but it was a different kind of Christmas, and one I loved just as much and I won’t forget.


*Julia is a volunteer from Germany. She is in Samoa with Projects Abroad and she has been working for the Samoa Observer for the past two months.

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