Celebrating the New Year in Tonga
Tonga is one of the first countries in the world to see the New Year due to its prime spot close to the International Date Line. That reason alone is well worth celebrating New Year’s Eve in Tonga, but the balmy weather, stunning beaches and fascinating culture are many more reasons to entice you to “The Kingdom” during this time of year (oh, and there are all of the 20 Amazing Reasons to Visit Tonga too). You’ll be able to experience a different pace of life and reconnect with some of the values that matter, whether it’s “R&R” with your loved ones at one of the resorts or experiencing unique traditions with the locals. Plan your New Year’s getaway with this guide on how to spend the New Year in Tonga.
How to Say “Happy New Year” in Tongan
How do you say “Happy New Year!” in Tongan? Happy New Year in Tongan is “Ofa kemou ma’u ha ta’ufo’ou monu’ia” but this is a phrase usually written rather than spoken. Otherwise, you would say “Happy New Year” out loud in English. Learn more about the local language in our guide, What is the Tonga Language?
5 Ways to Spend the New Year in Tonga
Before we get into the details of Tonga’s New Year’s Eve celebrations, here’s a quick overview of five different ways to spend New Year’s in Tonga:
- Go to a local church service to see the New Year in with amazing Tongan singing
- Relax and go snorkelling at one of the beach resorts
- Watch the first sunrise of the New Year
- Experience a Tongan feast, like an “umu”
- Head to one of the bars in Nuku’alofa!
Now, let’s take a look at those points in detail!
New Year’s Eve Parties in Tonga
If you’re looking for a party vibe, your best bets are at the bars in Nuku’alofa on Tongatapu, and Neiafu, the main hub of Vava’u. Nuku’alofa is the capital of Tonga and home to several bars and clubs where you can let your hair down and see in the New Year with a few drinks. Neiafu is a smaller town with a couple of options for drinks.
Bars in Nuku’alofa
Some of the bars found around Nuku’alofa include:
- Reload Bar, Taufa’ahau Road – A good go-to for a New Year-themed event and dancing into the wee hours
- Nauti Ruby’s Bar & Nightclub, Vuna Road – Karaoke, pool, drinks and dancing on the waterfront
- Ciora, Taufa’ahau Road – Sing your way into the new year with cheap drinks and karaoke
- Tali’eva Inn & Bar, Taufa’ahau Road – Fun vibes for an older crowd
- Billfish Bar & Restaurant, Vuna Road – Local beers and the possibility of a DJ set.
Bars in Neiafu
- Basque Tavern, Fatafehi Road – Tapas bar by day, bar bar by night and a fun favourite for New Year
- Le Galion, Fatafehi Road – Rustic bar overlooking the marina with an inclusive crowd
- Vava’u Lahi Sports Bar, Fatafehi Road – Drinks and dancing but not always the friendliest vibe for foreigners.
Learn more about the bars listed above, as well as many others, in The Ultimate Guide to Nightlife in Tonga.
New Year’s Eve Celebrations in Tonga’s Towns and Villages
New Year’s Eve celebrations are celebrated in communities in Tonga, with not much in the way of events for tourists. However, if you are staying in a town or village, perhaps in a hotel, guesthouse or homestay, you’re bound to see or experience some insight into the way Tongans celebrate the New Year.
Accommodations in Towns and Villages
To make it more of a local experience, you may want to try a Tongan homestay where you’ll be able to experience the New Year with a Tongan family. See the 10 Best Village & Homestays in Tonga and How to Find a Homestay in Tonga for ideas.
New Year Celebrations in Tonga
New Year’s Eve in Tonga is usually celebrated locally with church, family and food. Many businesses are closed between Christmas and the day after New Year’s Day so the whole week between the two public holidays is bustling with celebrations and activity within towns and villages.
Many Tongans celebrate New Year by going to church. Churches of all Christian denominations put on sunset and midnight services where visitors can experience the enthusiastic singing of the locals. It’s usually a humbling and spiritual way to see in the New Year. During the first week of January, prayer continues each day for “uike lotu”, which roughly translates to “one week of prayer”.
Speaking of singing, many communities in Tongan villages will host singing competitions between Christmas and New Year’s Day, usually forming bands and using everyday items as instruments.
Other than sharing songs, Tongans also like to share food with many families gifting meals to each other throughout the Christmas and New Year holiday period. In some villages, there will be a community feast on New Year’s Eve, where the church bells ring as an indication of when the feast is ready!
New Year’s Eve in Resorts
When the rest of Tonga shuts down, resorts are one of the few businesses still up and running for New Year’s Eve. Travellers can enjoy a stunning tropical getaway for the New Year by staying in one of Tonga’s amazing resorts.
How to Spend New Year’s in a Resort
Tonga’s resorts are almost always located on the beachfront, whether it’s on one of the main islands of Tonga’s four main island groups or a remote uninhabited island. Either way, travellers will be able to enjoy all the water activities Tonga’s resorts are famous for, from snorkelling to kayaking. You’ll be able to relax with your toes in the sand and enjoy the cuisine available at your resort’s restaurant. Some resorts put on special Tongan-style New Year’s feasts for their guests.
All in all, spending a New Year in the first country in the world to see New Year’s Day means relaxing in paradise.
Tempted? Start dreaming about your New Year’s getaway by scrolling through The Top 25 Resorts in Tonga.
Why is Tonga One of the First in the World to Celebrate the New Year?
Tonga is among the first in the world to celebrate the New Year because of its position close to the west side of the International Date Line. In other words, Tonga’s time zone is the first time zone. You can learn more about its position on the International Date Line in What is the Tonga Time Zone?
Where to Watch the World’s First Sunrise in Tonga for New Year’s Eve
One way to commemorate being in one of the first places in the world to celebrate New Year is to watch one of the first sunrises. The best places to watch the first sunrise include:
- Matamahinahopo Lookout, ‘Eua – Clifftop platform overlooking the Tongan Trench
- ‘Oholei Beach, Tongatapu – Sweeping eastern beach, which is also home to Hina Cave
- Hulu’ i Paongo Point, Ha’apai – Sandy point with a stunning eastern-facing beach
- Ene’io Beach, Vava’u – Tonga’s easternmost accessible beach should you want to be the very first to see the sunrise in Tonga.
Learn more about some of these beaches and lookouts in the 10 Most Beautiful Sunrise & Sunset Spots in Tonga.
The New Year Public Holidays and Other Public Holidays in Tonga
It’s important to note that New Year’s Day (1 January) is an official public holiday. This means that many shops, businesses and services will be closed or have reduced operating hours. It’s best to not try to organise too much on New Year’s Day; make these the days you relax at your resort or do a self-guided tiki tour around the islands.
New Year’s Day is just one of several public holidays in Tonga experienced throughout the year. 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 New Year’s Eve in Tonga
That’s it for our complete guide to New Year’s Eve in Tonga. Need more New Year’s inspiration or perhaps something to do for Christmas? Check out these guides:
- 10 Reasons to Head to Tonga this Christmas
- 10 Biggest Events in Tonga
- Tonga Christmas Ideas: How to Spend Christmas in Tonga
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Top Events & Festivals in Tonga.