Events, Conferences, Public Holidays and Festivals in Tonga
Tonga is full of ever-changing events each year, from tourism festivals to village beautification competitions to beauty pageants. However, there are a few events, conferences, festivals and public holidays that happen in Tonga yaer after year. See if your trip to Tonga coincides with any of these exciting events in Tonga!
1. Heilala Festival
Tonga’s largest festival is a multi-week event starting on July 3 or 4 each year. The festival is named after the national flower of Tonga, which flowers at this time of the year. The event kicks off with the King’s Birthday (see below) and has a number of events and shows happening throughout the week, including talent shows, brass band performances, singing competitions and much more. The highlight of the event is the Miss Heilala Beauty Pageant.
When: July 3/4 for one to three weeks
2. King Tupou VI’s Birthday
The reigning king has his birthday on July 4 (well, technically, it’s on the 12th), which is an official public holiday and the start of the Heilala Festival (see above). The Heilala Festival was created in order to commemorate the King’s birthday and has been a hit for years. Many shops and businesses are closed for this public holiday.
When: July 4 (if it falls on a Sunday, the public holiday is moved to the next Monday)
3. Tonga Day
Also known as “Tonga’s National Day” or “Tonga’s Constitutional Day”, Tonga Day is on November 4. The day was first enacted by King Tupou I on November 4, 1875. It is an event celebrated not just in the main towns of Tonga, but perhaps with more vigour in countries where Tongans have emigrated, such as New Zealand, Australia and the US. You may be able to catch shows with dancing and singing in Nuku’alofa.
When: November 4
4. Free Wesleyan Church Conference
Almost the entire population of Tonga are devout Christians, with the Wesleyan denomination being the most popular. Starting July 6, the Wesleyan Church Conference begins, lasting one week. The church’s prominent members get together and speeches are made. You’re likely to see events throughout the towns of Tonga, including marching bands.
When: Around July 6 for a week
5. Vava’u Blue Water Festival
The Vava’u Blue Water Festival, casually known as the Regatta Festival, is a highlight of the cruising calendar in Tonga. The event starts around the end of September each year and lasts for a week. The event includes yacht racing, auctions for charity, shows performed by local school children, dinners for charity, community barbecues and something new and exciting each year.
When: End of September
One of the most important events on the Christian calendar, Christmas is celebrated with enthusiasm in Tonga. Christmas Day and Boxing Day are public holidays, while church services are grander than ever. The week between Christmas Day and New Year has communities putting on singing competitions and families gifting food to each other. Find out more about Christmas in Where to Spend Christmas in Tonga.
When: Christmas Day December 25 & Boxing Day December 26
7. New Year’s Day
Due to Tonga’s time zone, it is the first country in the world to see in the New Year. While not as big of an event as Christmas, locals will celebrate with New Year’s Eve sunset and midnight church services, community feasts and some young locals go out to bars in Nuku’alofa. Learn more in Where to Spend New Year’s Eve in Tonga.
When: New Year’s Eve December 31 & New Year’s Day January 1
While an important Christian holiday, Easter is not celebrated with events quite as much as Christmas. Nevertheless, some shows with school children performing Tongan song and dance can be seen in some communities and the country enjoys three days of public holiday, including Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. Learn more about Easter in The Guide to Easter in Tonga.
When: Changeable each year with dates between March 22 and April 25
9. Emancipation Day
Another public holiday in Tonga, Emancipation Day is a day to commemorate King Tupou I officially abolishing serfdom in Tonga on June 4 1862. It essentially meant that commoners were freed from the virtual ownership of chiefs. The Monday following June 4 is observed as a public holiday where locals can enjoy time with family. Learn more about public holidays in our guide to Public Holidays in Tonga (& Other Important Dates).
When: June 4
Visitors will see hundreds of women dressed in white around September 28 for Faka-Sepitema. This is best described as a church “roll call” done by the Wesleyan Church where each female member of the church answers to their name called out with “I am present”. Unlike other formal events, women do not wear their traditional clothing like a waist mat but wear all-white clothing. Learn more about the Religions in Tonga.
When: Around September 28