Christmas in Bora Bora is coming soon and like children & families world-wide, islanders LOVE Christmas, the feeling resonates through the air; one can feel the excitement, touch the happiness & joy ………….. Santa is coming to Bora!
Historically, whilst recognising the preaching of a certain Teaarefu from around 1804, Christianity & indeed a traditional Christmas, was probably first celebrated on Bora Bora after the battle of Fei-Pi in Tahiti in 1815 when “the King’s Christians with guns triumphed over the traditionally armed followers of the Tahitian god Oro”. Mai, a warrior chief from Bora Bora who could read & write & had heard the Gospel preached, returned from the battle to Bora Bora where along with another chief, Tefaaora, he preached the Gospel widely. They arguably provided the catalyst for the conversion to Christianity of the island together with celebration of Christmas. This was several years before Pastor Orsmond, Bora Bora’s first pastor, arrived (1818) then 2 years later Pastor Platt at the time the construction of the first church on the island, the Protestant Temple at Vaitape, commenced.
Celebrations on Bora Bora get under way a fortnight before Christmas with the opening of the Village de Noel (the Christmas Fair) – a highly animated 4 day get together of stalls focussed on products hand-made in Bora Bora ranging from jewelry – beautiful works of shells & engraved mother of (Tahitian) pearl – to local style clothing, to (very) colourful pottery focussed on the underlying characteristics of Polynesian culture that so inspired the likes of Gauguin amongst others, to hand made traditional musical instruments so precious to a people that have an innate propensity to party, all amidst a massive display of local fruits & flowers & the famous Tahitian oil ‘monoi‘……whilst the strumming of ukuleles & guitars charms all in attendance:
These very intricate works of art are made by hand from coconut tree palms put through a series of drying & bleaching techniques…
They look like apples but taste like pears!
These guys are great!
Each year, on the Saturday before Christmas the population of Bora Bora gathers just after sunset for a “Parade de Noel” – a colourful parade of magnificently decorated floats & a night-time dance spectacle. It’s a great favourite with the population & a chance to spread the wonder & joy of Christmas.
A great place to start is at the ‘roulottes‘, the famous mobile restaurants & a huge favourite with locals. They have everything from local plates to old favourites, crepes to pizzas……. & the ambience is unbeatable:
The floats are decorated in a ‘local Christmas theme’ – this one ‘covered in snow’ with a va’a (outrigger canoe) sailing across it was an interesting concept:
Each float is ultimately judged before the public with an offering to the judges being made in the spirit of Christmas:
Amongst the judges this year the recently elected Miss Bora Bora & also Mister Bora Bora followed by some shots of this year’s floats taken whilst parading up the main street of Vaitape – its very much a carnival atmosphere – & whilst being judged under the ‘big white tent’:
The commune’s massive lagoon-side marquee with a floor of ‘snow’ white sand is packed to the rafters. All are here to see the island’s children perform in a number of varied dance routines where – as Christmas would have it – ‘fun’ is very much the order of the day. This is a people proud if its tradition & culture and the tamure (traditional Tahitian dancing) forms the background to the spectacle:
The next day sees the marquee again packed for a fabulous ‘Night of Christmas Carols’.
Polynesians have an innate passion for festivities, for singing & dancing, for sharing in a spirit of joy & the exceptional singing in the churches of Polynesia certainly reflects this truth. Tonight an oecumenical gathering of wonderful song in the true Christmas spirit – choirs from the Mormon, the Adventist, Catholic & Protestant churches amongst others are joined by the group Bora Gospel in a Christmas choral celebration.
Bora Gospel would open & close proceedings:
The Mormons were huge this year both in terms of numbers & in voice:
The voice of a young boy is synonymous with Christmas carols. Hopefully this development will be enlarged next year to, why not, include a school choir singing traditional Christmas Carols…..
The Adventists – carols with a certain majestic quality. Let there be more:
The Protestant Maohi Church were outstanding – wonderful harmonies, deep rich voices…..excellent! These guys encaptulate the uniquely Tahitian sound that flows from their culture of singing himenes. Let’s hope they add more to their repeertoire for next year as in doing so they will add much to the evening overall.
There were a couple of smaller groups this year, one with as little as 3 singers & a musician but they had a certain quality & are to be encouraged as they add much to the evening:
I was struck by the advances made on last year & headed home comfortable in the belief that with proper input this can become a great event.
In Tahiti the tradition is very much to celebrate Christmas on the night of Christmas Eve …………. & well into the wee hours of Christmas Day. Polynesians are people of great Christian faith & all who can, attend a religious ceremony to celebrate the birth of Christ:
Here’s a photo from Mass at Saint Pierre Celestine Catholic Church in Vaitape:
Christmas Day service at the Protestant Temple – this is where to head to pay your respects if you wish to hear the best singing on the island – sensational – plus see hand made hats weaved intricately from local foliage:
Those visiting Bora Bora are most welcome to participate in any of these events all of which are held centrally in Vaitape. There’s a common thread of happiness & peace at all such celebrations
Christmas Day itself is very much a family day when the young & the not so young members of a family gather together in the spirit of peace, joy & giving.
Happy Christmas to all.