What's different in Fiji?
In the scatter of islands which make up Fiji, the indigenous Fijian majority share a deep Christian faith, so Christmas is a religious festival first and foremost. What's more, there's not much scope for businesses to cash in, as most people have little disposable income. Beyond cheap and durable tinsel decorations, the shops are no different before Christmas. This I found relaxing.
Nevertheless, there's the familiar flurry of transport madness as town dwellers try to return to ancestral villages for Christmas, bringing practical gifts such as fabric, garments, soap and groceries. Small ferries set off from the main island of Viti Levu, overloaded with smiling passengers, cartons of tinned food, sacks of flour and rice, bales of cloth and even building materials.
My first Fijian Christmas
My husband and I travelled by seaplane to a budget resort run by villagers in the Yasawa Islands. On Christmas Eve the staff decorated the posts supporting the roof of the dining shelter with palm fronds. Later they inserted fresh flowers between the leaves: frangipanni, orchids and gardenias.
It was blissful to sit among this natural beauty to eat my breakfast pawpaw (papaya) on Christmas morning, squishing the soft sand between my toes. What was not quite so blissful was being woken at dawn on Christmas morning by sweet carolling outside our bure! I don't know how this Fijian twist on the European custom of carolling on Christmas Eve came about.
We decided to walk to the village a mile away for church, where our spirits soared with the heartfelt singing of Christmas carols. Fijians seem to be born with the gift of four-part harmony! After church some hospitable villagers invited us to their extended family lunch. Delighted to accept, we sat on mats beneath a thatched feasting shelter, pictured here.
A generous spread of food was laid out on a tablecloth metres-long, including traditional festive dishes of earth-baked chicken and fish marinated in lime juice and coconut cream, to tinned supermarket goods. Everyone was happy, in a mood to celebrate the return of family to the island as well as the birth of Jesus.
My best wishes to you all for Christmas and New Year.
I would love to answer any questions from readers about Fiji, or indeed about my books. Just leave me a message on www.bmallsopp.com or email me on email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
again, all the best for 2019,