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