What little is known about Samoa's early
inhabitants comes from oral history. It is generally accepted that
ancestors of the Polynesians migrated
from the area to Samoa around 1000 BC. Most
people are ethnic Samoans of Polynesian descent, and about 7 per cent are
of mixed European and Polynesian descent. Europeans make up less than 1
per cent of the population.
a language related to Tongan and other Polynesian languages, is the
language of Samoa. English is also spoken by many people.
all Samoans are Christian. About half
of them belong to the Christian Congregationalist Church. Other prominent
churches include the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Latter-day Saints
(Mormon), and Seventh-Day Adventist. In general, Christianity plays an
important role in the lives of most Samoans, many of whom hold evening
prayer services in their homes.
A typical Samoan village is made up of a series
of families. Samoan society is hierarchical, and respect for authority is
instilled from an early age. An extended
family or kinship group is called an aiga.
A matai leads the aiga, and is
selected by members of the group. A family member is anyone who is related
to the matai by birth, marriage, or adoption. The matai of a village form
a council, called the Fono, which governs the affairs of the
village. Each matai is responsible for the labour, activities, well-being,
and housing of his family. Family members are obliged to share their food
and other possessions with the extended family and, to some extent, with
the entire village. Land is held in trusteeship in the name of the matai.
Extended families normally have 20 to 30 members.
children are taught not to bother adults and are usually supervised by
older children. Any adult may freely scold or discipline any child when
necessary. Discipline within the home is generally strict; children are
taught to respect authority.
Diet and Eating
basic agricultural products of Samoa are bananas, breadfruit, pineapples,
papayas, coconuts, copra, yams, and
taro. Pork, chicken, and fish are often part of meals, especially during fiafia,
which are feasts.
Most Samoan foods are eaten with the fingers.
During a meal, a bowl of water will often be provided for washing hands. A
guest may request one before the meal if it is not offered, because hands
should be clean before eating. Even if a visitor is not hungry, he or she
should eat a small amount of food so that the host is not disappointed. It
is important for guests to make their hosts feel that their hospitality is
foster harmony and show respect, Samoans usually offer a formal greeting
such as Susu mai (“Listen”) or Afio
mai (“Come”) before beginning a conversation.
Visitors are not invited to enter a Samoan home
until the host has laid out floor mats for them to sit on. In less
traditional homes, chairs are used instead of mats. Guests are then
welcomed by the head of the household. Guest and host often exchange
gifts, and the host might offer a speech of welcome, to which the guest
reciprocates with an appropriate formal response. It is customary to leave
one’s shoes outside and to sit cross-legged on mats. Legs may also be
tucked behind a person but are never stretched out in front. Visitors are
expected to sit where the host indicates. If offered kava,
a bitter drink made from the roots of a pepper plant, the guest holds the
cup out in front, spills a few drops on the floor mat, and says Manuia
(“Good luck”), as a sign of respect for the host family. It is
impolite to speak to someone in a home while standing. Traditionally,
Samoans consider it a matter of honour to make a guest feel as welcome as
possible, believing that anything they have is at the disposal of others.
have their own version of cricket. Boating events, volleyball, rugby, and
basketball are also popular. Dancing and singing are very much a part of
life, especially during the fiafia.
Holidays and Celebrations
holidays such as Christmas Day (25 December) and Easter are celebrated.
The Independence Day celebrations begin on 1 June and last for three days.
The Swarm of the Palolo is celebrated each
year, usually in late October, during the breeding season of the palolo.
Palolo are coral reef worms, considered
a delicacy by the Samoans. White Sunday (the second Sunday in October) is
an important religious and social occasion in honour of children.
more general information
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