What’s it Like to Spend 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 Dateline. Christmas actually 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!
Tips for Visiting Tonga for Christmas
- Almost everything except for tourist accommodations are closed for Christmas Day
- Many shops and services are closed between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
- Experiencing a church service in Tonga is a must, with beautiful singing and visitors welcome to most churches
- Stay in a town or a village to experience the cultural celebrations of Christmas
- 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.
Christmas in 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 place to stay are in Tonga’s towns and villages.
Accommodation 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 following articles:
- 10 Best Guesthouses in Tongatapu
- 5 Best Guesthouses in Ha’apai
- 6 Best Guesthouses in Vava’u
- 10 Best Hotels in Tongatapu
- 5 Best Hotels in Vava’u
To make it more of a locals experience, you may want to try a Tongan homestay where you’ll be able to experience Christmas with a Tongan family. See the 5 Best Homestays on Tongatapu for ideas.
Celebrations in Tongan Towns and Villages
Staying 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.
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 slow-cooking food in an underground oven.
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 T-shirt with you to swim in.
Christmas in Resorts
Christmas in resorts provides a completely different experience in Tonga. Resorts provide a tranquil getaway on remote islands or by 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 are 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.
Resorts in Tonga
Check out some of the amazing resorts around Tonga in the following articles.