There are some things that Samoa does really well. Celebrating White Sunday is one of them.
I’ve lived in Samoa for three years now and I always get excited when I see the hoopla and pizzazz around the White Sunday celebration.
I’m constantly told that “it’s for the kids!” but I know very well that there are always two stories in Paradise. Let’s be honest about it. Is it not also for the big kids too?
I first experienced a White Sunday in the Catholic Church at Safotu in 2009, and have fond memories of what was our first experience of a Samoan church service. What a welcome my daughter and I had with white as far as the eye could see and beautiful floral arrangements with special items and songs from the children. Little did we know at the time that we had walked into a White Sunday celebration and that not every service was so special!
While we all know that Samoa has some behaviour that is not quite so biblically based, the importance of the family and appreciating family in Samoa is totally scriptural. In this regard I commend you.
The importance of family and more specifically relationship cannot be underestimated. The greatest loss from the fall was the loss of a relationship. When mankind messed up, I believe that it was a loss of relationship between the Creator and His Creation that hurt the Creator most.
Remember that it was God who came around in the Garden of Eden seeking a relationship with His creation. He was the one who actively sought out Adam and Eve. When we truly understand the love that He has for His children we can better understand the importance of the love that we have for our children.
Christ too echoed His Father’s heart for the younger ones when He spoke clearly and firmly about treasuring the children. He spoke of this as an important theme, not just as a throwaway line.
The Palagi world that I was brought up in has no institutionalised celebrations for the children. We may celebrate a child’s birthday, and perhaps enjoy Christmas together as a family, but we do not have a day such as White Sunday, where across the country children have a chance to shine.
This cultural difference is a much deeper issue than just the absence of a celebration though. The Western world is a lot more individualistic than the communal, family, extended family and Samoan way of life. Our thinking is primarily to worry about ourselves first, before family. We are taught and patterned from childhood to achieve as individuals; to focus on our individual skills and attitudes and to value outcomes more than relationships.
This gives us a different perspective, and therefore unfortunately the building, keeping and treasuring of relationships (such as with our children) tend to come secondary to other things. Many of our forbears with the English culture also placed children in a lower position than what I believe the Lord intended for them. That children should be seen and not heard, was a common attitude towards children when I grew up.
Samoa, hand it to yourselves today – when you want to, you can really do this “family thing” well.
Dennis A. Smith (www.dennis.co.nz) is a Samoa-based author, blogger and CEO of the SWAP Foundation, home of Samoa voluntourism.