Tonga Christmas Ideas: How to Spend Christmas in Tonga©
Tonga Christmas Ideas: How to Spend Christmas in Tonga

Tonga Christmas Ideas: How to Spend Christmas in Tonga


What’s it Like to Celebrate Christmas in Tonga?

Forget snow, forget pine trees and over-consumerism, Tonga does Christmas a little differently. It might even make you want to change the way you do Christmas forever! Yes, as a country of devout Christians, Tongans celebrate Christmas with enthusiasm. The tropical archipelago in the South Pacific is one of the first countries in the world to celebrate Christmas each year due to its position near the International Date Line. Christmas comes during Tonga’s hottest season of the year where visitors can either spend days lazying at the beach in a resort or join the Christmas cheer in Tongan towns and villages. We go over the different ways you can spend Christmas in Tonga in the guide below!

How Do You Say “Merry Christmas” in Tongan?

First things first, make sure that you know how to say “Merry Christmas” in Tongan! Merry Christmas is “Kilisimasi Fiefia!” in Tongan. For more Tongan language essentials, check out the 10 Tongan Words You Need to Know When Visiting Tonga.

5 Tips for Visiting Tonga for Christmas

  1. Almost everything except for tourist accommodations is closed for Christmas Day
  2. Many shops and services are closed between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
  3. Experiencing a church service in Tonga is a must, with beautiful singing and visitors welcome to most churches
  4. Stay in a town or a village to experience the cultural celebrations of Christmas
  5. Stay in a resort to enjoy an escape from Christmas.

While you’re here, you might also be interested in the 10 Reasons to Head to Tonga this Christmas.

Tonga Christmas Ideas: How to Spend Christmas in Tonga©

Is Christmas a Good Time to Visit Tonga?

We might be a little biased, but yes, Christmas is an exceptional time to visit Tonga. The weather is warm at a maximum average temperature of 30°C / 86°F and there’s plenty of sunshine to be had in this tropical paradise. However, Christmas in Tonga is during the rainy season, so be prepared for that.

While most accommodations and resorts don’t charge a premium for Christmas holidays, they can book up quickly with lots of families visiting for Christmas. Additionally, flights are a little more expensive during this time and are booked up well in advance, so get in there quickly.

Are the Shops Open at Christmas in Tonga?

Know that Christmas Day (25 December) and Boxing Day (26 December) are public holidays, which means that shops are closed, as are many businesses and restaurants. Transport services typically don’t operate on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, such as ferries and flights. It’s also best to prepare your self-catering needs at least the day before Christmas. On the other hand, resorts will be functioning as normal; their restaurants and all.

See the Tonga Weather in December for more tips about visiting Tonga during the holiday season.

Tonga Christmas Ideas: How to Spend Christmas in Tonga©

Christmas in Tongan Towns and Villages

If you’re looking to make the most out of the cultural experiences and celebrations associated with Christmas in Tonga, then the best places to stay are in Tonga’s towns and villages.

Accommodations in Towns and Villages

The most common types of accommodations found in Tonga’s most populated areas are hotels and guesthouses. Browse accommodation in the 20 Best Guesthouses in Tonga and 25 Best Hotels in Tonga.

To make it more of a local experience, you may want to try a Tongan homestay where you’ll be able to experience Christmas with a Tongan family. See the 10 Best Village & Homestays in Tonga and How Find a Homestay in Tonga for ideas.

Celebrations in Tongan Towns and Villages

Stay in a town or village around Christmas and you’ll likely see trees decorated with balloons, candy and paper chains. There are no pine trees in Tonga, so any tree usually does the trick!

Tongan celebrations usually include fireworks, which are for sale in the main towns leading up to the Christmas period. A Christmas tradition is known as “Tutukupakanava” where coconut husks are lined up on the beach and lit on fire.

In the days leading up to Christmas and between Christmas and New Year, the churches come alive almost daily with singing and Tongan-style carols. Tongans sing with beautiful acapella harmonies, sometimes accompanied by brass bands played by high school children. Check out the 10 Best Churches in Tonga for Tourists for great churches to experience as a visitor.

Larger towns, like Nuku’alofa and Neiafu, will have large community events with singing, dancing and switching on the Christmas lights of a large decorated tree. See more of the largest towns listed in The 5 Biggest Towns & Villages in Tonga.

Food, however, is the main celebration of Christmas, where the only type of gift exchanged in Tonga is food. Families will go around gifting plates of food to one another, leaving you with several different meals to enjoy throughout Christmas. Other families may prepare an umu, which is a traditional Polynesian cooking method of slow-cooking food in an underground oven. Learn more about umus in the 10 Unique Foods in Tonga You Have to Try.

And if you’re spending time with families with children, Christmas often involves going to the beach for a picnic and a swim. Be aware that Tongans swim fully clothed so take shorts and a T-shirt/rashie with you to swim in. See more ways to respect the local culture in our guide to Tonga Etiquette: Respecting the Local Customs.

Tonga Christmas Ideas: How to Spend Christmas in Tonga©

Christmas in Resorts

Christmas in resorts brings a completely different experience in Tonga. Resorts provide a tranquil getaway on remote islands or beaches away from your traditional Christmas holiday.

Although some resorts are closed for Christmas out of choice, resorts are some of the only businesses exempt from sabbath laws applied at Christmas. Guests staying in resorts over the Christmas period will still be able to do the usual in-resort activities, such as kayaking, snorkelling and eating at the resort’s restaurant. Some resorts may put on special Tongan-style feasts for Christmas. Note that paid tourist activities, such as tours, are usually not available on Christmas Day.

All in all, the Tongan resort Christmas is an excuse to relax and remove yourself from – what some would see – the “chaos” of Christmas.

Convinced? Start dreaming about your Christmas getaway by scrolling through The Top 25 Resorts in Tonga.

Tonga Christmas Ideas: How to Spend Christmas in Tonga©

Other Public Holidays in Tonga

Christmas is just one of many Christian holidays that Tonga observes. Other public holidays in Tonga include:

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day
  • Changeable between March 22 and April 25 – Good Friday
  • Changeable between March 22 and April 25 – Easter Monday
  • April 25 – ANZAC Day
  • The Monday following June 4 – Emancipation Day
  • July 4 (if it falls on a Sunday, will be moved to the following Monday) – King Tupou VI’s Birthday
  • September 17 – Birthday of Crown Prince
  • The Monday following November 4 – Tonga Day
  • The Monday following December 4 – King Tupou I Day
  • December 25 – Christmas Day
  • December 26 – Boxing Day

Learn more about these dates in the Public Holidays in Tonga (& Other Important Dates).

More About Tonga Christmas and Holiday Events

That’s it for our complete guide to Christmas in Tonga. Need more holiday season inspiration or perhaps something to do for the New Year? Check out these guides:

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Top Events & Festivals in Tonga.


Laura (Lola) S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Tonga. She knows the islands inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Tonga’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

Was this article useful?