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Latitude: 7.1' .05" N  x  Longitude: 171' 23" E
 





 

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Dates to Remember -

  New Year's Eve
Depends on what you’re into. But if it’s parties with a capital ‘P’, then the best time of the year to be hanging around Majuro is the New Year. On New Year’s Eve, everyone who is anyone in Majuro — and quite a few others from less sophisticated locales such as Kwajalein, Hawaii and elsewhere — shows up at the justly-famous Block Party on New Year’s Eve.

It’s a shindig to be sure. Top live bands performing, dancing in the street, games for kids, food of half a dozen ethnic varieties, booze and other beverages, lion dancing by the Taiwanese community, and plenty more. It’s a carnival atmosphere that lasts well into the next morning, usually wrapping up about the time the sun comes up.

Late March / Early April
Not surprisingly, many of the big national events in the Marshall Islands have to do with fishing or sailing. Thus, in Majuro there’s the Coconut Cup Regatta in late March/early April that brings out an assortment of canoes, yachts, small sail boats and the occasional windsurfer.

Early May
The Outrigger Marshall Islands National Cup canoe race that pits 15-20 of the country’s best canoe captains in a battle for championship bragging rights.

First Weekend in July
The big two-day sports fishing tournament over National Fishermen’s Day weekend.

Early September
The two-day All-Micronesia Fishing Tournament that brings in fishermen from all corners of the Pacific.

Late September
The Alele Week celebration in late September culminates in a national holiday marking Culture Day. What’s usually great about this week is that visitors and local residents alike get an opportunity to see a range of cultural presentations that are not ordinarily on display. Depending on the energy and creativity of the organizers from year to year, one might get to see elementary school students performing dances or skits, practiced dance groups performing contemporary songs and dances, carvers and crafts-makers giving demonstrations of how they produce the high quality crafts for which the Marshalls is known, and chanters doing their thing.

Christmas
The other time of the year that produces a concentrated bonanza of dancing and singing over a short period is Christmas. “Traditionally” — more or less since shortly after the arrival of the missionaries in the 1850s — Christmas has been the focus of celebration by Christians throughout the country. In days gone by, virtually the entire island was of the Protestant religious persuasion. Groups from within the single church on each island would, in about September, set about composing new songs and developing new dances for the Christmas celebration. It was the big competition for the year that culminated on Christmas Day. Usually, church pastors offered up live pigs and other prizes that, in the days of barter and trade, acted as huge incentives spurring the creativity of the song writers and dance choreographers.

These days, churches don’t usually hand out pigs or prizes, and what with the distractions of modern urban living, the practices. Nevertheless, there is a friendly but competitive air about the day. Starting immediately after the morning service on Christmas Day, groups line up outside the multitude of Protestant and Assembly of God churches, launching into song just outside the door. The hundreds of people crammed into the churches crane their necks with anticipation as the group comes hopping and bopping into the church, doing the uniquely Marshallese dance that locally is called “beat”.

Indeed, if Marshall Islanders practiced and performed these “beat” dances year-round, there would be fewer obese people in the islands, so active and energetic are the dances. A dance group will usually perform two or three dances, then rest their legs by performing several choir songs. The performance wraps up with a circular march in the center of the church (the pews and chairs are pushed to the sides of the churches for Christmas Day) that, for children at least, is the most exciting part of the entire show. The dance group tosses goodies to the audience — everything from lollies, candy bars and bags of ramen noodles to pencils, plastic cups and tooth brushes. Mass chaos ensues. The scene on the church floor often resembles a rugby scrum, though hardly so orderly, as the children jump and dive for the incoming objects.

Church deacons then trot out with brooms, sweeping up the litter of candy wrappers, as the performers wander off and a new “beat” group cranks up its song outside the church, preparing to enter.

It continues, more or less as described above, until at least midnight. Some years, the performances stretch until dawn the next day. And, because there are usually many groups and many churches to visit, the Christmas “Day” celebration continues for most of the week following, with special performances at different churches by the groups. So if you’re in the mood for a different kind of Christmas event, Majuro is a good place to be on the day.

 

 

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