Tuesday 31 October 2017

Federated States of Micronesia Holidays and Festivals

Federated States of Micronesia holidays, as well as different religious observances are widely celebrated on the islands. Liberation day, which is observed yearly on September 11, commemorates the victory of the US over Japan in WWII. On the island of Pohnpei, this is preceded by an entire week of traditional parties and sports events.

"Mitmits" feasts in Yap are characterized by lots of dancing and exchanging of gifts among villagers. Regular Sunday church services and celebrations are also observed, especially on Kosrae Island, where everything shuts down to give way to traditional events. Christmas is also a colorful time in Micronesia, and each island has a unique way of welcoming the holiday with food and music.

Micronesians also participate in many Pacific-wide art events like the Pacific Festival of Arts and the Rarotonga Festival of Pacific Arts in the Cook Islands. Music fests are regularly held to celebrate the achievements and talents of local performers. The South Pacific Arts Festival is marked by all kinds of cultural presentations and shows that attract different groups from neighboring Pacific Island Nations.

Religious holidays in the FSM are mostly based on the Christian calendar. Ash Wednesday (February), Easter (March/April), All Saint's Day (November 2), and Christmas Day (December 25) are widely observed, along with other secular holidays like Thanksgiving.

New Year's Day

Celebrated on the first day of January, New Year's marks the start of a brand new year. Like the rest of the world, the islands celebrate with all kinds of festivities and parties.
Kosrae Constitution Day
January 11 commemorates the establishment of the Kosrae Constitution. All the villages celebrate this state holiday.

Lelu Memorial Day

Another public holiday, everyone is welcome to celebrate Lelu memorial day in Lelu village on January 18.

Yap Day

March 1 marks Yap Day, which is one of the most important events in Micronesia. Locals from all four Yapese islands enjoy the merriment of the festival, performing traditional dances and participating in carnivals. The stick dance and Pohnpei are complete with swirling grass skirts and colorful costumes.

Micronesian Culture and Traditions Day

Established to celebrate Micronesia's cultural and traditional heritage, this day is honored on March 31 every year.

Constitution Day

Constitution Day commemorates the founding of the democratic government on the Federated States of Micronesia. It is celebrated on May 10 by all the islands.

Tree Planting Day

As part of the forestry program in the Federated States of Micronesia, a tree-planting day is observed on June 1 each year in accordance with environmental week and Earth Day.

Independence Day

This November 3 holiday celebrates the nation's sovereignty and accomplishments since its liberation from its colonizers. Independence Day is marked by all kinds of festive events with music, overflowing feasts and cultural presentations.

Veterans of Foreign War Day

Observed November 11, this highly patriotic day in Micronesia commemorates the contributions of veterans who served in the US Armed Forces during the Foreign Wars.

Thanksgiving Day

An annual tradition in the US and other parts of the world, Thanksgiving originally was created to give thanks for guiding the pilgrims safely into the "new world." Feasts in Micronesia mean lots of traditional food such as fish, shellfish, venison, wild fowl, harvest grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Christmas Day

Just like every other Christian country, Micronesia celebrates the birth of Christ every December 25. Families attend local church services, sing hymns and present gifts to each other followed by large feasts shared by everyone.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Marriage and Family in Marshall Islands

Because any display of affection between members of the opposite sex is considered inappropriate, meeting at night (locally called Kabbok driturin, or "nightcrawling") is the typical method of courtship.

A boy approaches a girl's house at night, crawling and throwing pebbles to get her attention. After courtship, the next step is to koba, equivalent to living together in a common-law marriage. A couple makes a commitment to each other, starts living together, and might start raising children. Many people later formalize their relationship and marry in a church.

The family is the basis of personal and hierarchical relations and land ownership. Generally many relatives live together as an extended family. Informal adoption is common, and children are often cared for by members of their extended family, especially grandparents. This arrangement is very flexible and can extend beyond blood relations.
Because older people are greatly respected, they are also taken care of. 

The society is matrilineal (land is passed down through women), yet men often act as representatives and wield a great deal of day-to-day power. Women are responsible for child rearing and cooking. They also work outside the home, contributing to copra production, food gathering, and traditional weaving.


Agricultural products in the Marshall Islands include coconuts, bananas, breadfruit, limes, taro, pumpkins, and papayas. Fish, chicken, and pork are also part of the Marshallese diet, especially during kemem (feasts). 

Imported foods include rice, flour, sugar, coffee, tea, and canned meats. They compose an increasingly greater proportion of the diet. There are few customs regarding which foods are appropriate at which times.
However, dinner, which usually includes fish, is the main meal of the day. Kwanjin, breadfruit baked on coals and scraped, is popular. So are jaajmi (raw fish) and taituuj (fried banana pancakes). Cooking on outer islands is often done over open fires or in ground ovens.

Most Marshallese foods are eaten with the fingers. If food is presented but a visitor is not hungry, custom dictates eating a small amount to show appreciation to the host. The more guests eat, the greater their appreciation. A host is disappointed or confused when a guest refuses an offer of food, because hosts enjoy the opportunity to be hospitable. It is better for guests to wrap up offered food and take it with them than to give it back. A common expression, Kan dikdik kan in iokwe ("Little food with lots of love"), reflects the importance of sharing food even when there is not enough left for the family. When there is an abundance of food, many meals or small snacks may be eaten in a day. Young children are usually fed first. If a family catches a big fish and cooks it, they are expected to share it with neighbors and members of the extended family. They might, therefore, take a plate of tuna to a friend or relative, who would return it laden with bananas or another food a couple of days later.


Iokwe is the all-purpose greeting appropriate in almost any situation. Like Aloha in Hawaiian, it has many meanings based on inflection. It might mean "hello," "good-bye," "love," or "like," and in certain situations it can be an expression of frustration or remorse. While shaking hands is not widespread, when people do shake hands they might continue shaking for a prolonged period, even for an entire conversation. 

Another common greeting is Itok im mona ("Come and eat"). It is used both literally and as a general greeting. It is typical for people, particularly on outer islands, to invite passersby in for conversation and a drink of ni (coconut water), jakaro (coconut sap), coffee, or whatever is on hand. When people address one another, names are not usually used. Instead, a more general reference such as motta ("friend") might follow Iokwe.

Visiting is an important aspect of Marshallese society. If people do not visit or accept visitors, others may wonder if something is wrong. Taking a short stroll or a longer boat trip to visit and chat with friends or family plays a major role in Marshallese life. The practice is referred to as jambo, and individuals and families jambo at all hours on any given day. Hosts offer guests refreshments ranging from natural fruits or fish to imported rice, canned meats, and drinks.

Visitors are seated on jaki (mats) woven from pandanus leaves. New jaki are used as sleeping mats, while old ones are used to sit on. It is customary to remove one's sandals before sitting down. Men sit cross-legged and women tuck their legs to the side. Out of modesty, women are particularly careful to cover their thighs. Many people also lie down (babu) to converse, propping their heads on a large stone, coconut, or window sill. Visitors and hosts often sit without speaking, simply enjoying each other's presence.


Socializing is the main recreational activity. Sports, including volleyball, basketball, baseball, swimming, and canoe racing, are popular. Most schools and towns host local field days, and the Marshall Islands send a team to the Micronesian Olympics. Storytelling is also enjoyed.

Monday 23 October 2017

Marshall Islands Holidays and Festivals

Many Marshall Islands holidays have similar counterparts in the United States. During the same weekend North Americans observe Labor Day, Marshallese celebrate Rijerbal Day in honor of the islands' working class. Another national holiday, Gospel Day, is similar to Thanksgiving, with a stronger emphasis on church services. Manit Day, however, celebrates the Marshallese's own distinct culture. Sailing races and fishing tournaments are among the islands' most popular sporting events.

Marshall Islands Memorial and Nuclear Victims Day

This tribute to the victims of the 1954 Bikini Atoll hydrogen bomb explosion ranks among the most serious of all Marshall Islands holidays. Bravo was the most powerful hydrogen bomb the United States had ever tested. People on no fewer than four atolls were forced to evacuate and several experienced severe radiation poisoning. March 1 is a day of prayer, emotional speeches, candlelight vigils, and somber reflection for the current residents of those atolls.

Liberation Day

Each of the Marshall Islands celebrates the anniversary of the day the United States liberated each individual island from Japan during WWII on different days and in their own unique ways. The main Liberation Day event in Majuro is an exciting canoe race, while the atoll of Kwajalein celebrates its Liberation Day with a lively parade, flag waving and a field day between all local schools on Ebeye Beach.

Coconut Cup Regatta

Sailing crafts of all sizes from luxury yachts to traditional Marshallese canoes, are welcome to participate in this unique regatta held in Majuro between late March and early April. Even windsurfers can take part in the main Saturday afternoon race, which follows a triangular pattern to and from the Robert Reimers Enterprises complex. There are also races for miniature canoes called riwut and vessels built entirely from recycled materials. A weekend affair, prizes are awarded on Saturday, a picnic takes place on Sunday and the Marshall Islands Resort hosts a soirée on Monday.

Marshall Islands Constitution Day

May 1 is the anniversary of the day the first Marshall Islands constitution was signed. This was one of the first steps towards complete independence, and today, its people remember this significant event through parades, wreaths and field day competitions among local schools.

Fisherman's Day

On the first Friday of each July, the Marshalls Billfish Club hosts this exciting fishing competition where vessels depart in the morning and return in the early evening to have their catches weighed and measured. Anglers receive prizes for the heaviest fish, biggest fish, largest number caught, and many more.

Mobil All Micronesia Fishing Tournament

Labor Day weekend in North America is the same weekend the Marshall Islands pays tribute to its working class during Rijerbal Day, held on the first Friday of September. This Marshalls Billfish Club-sponsored fishing tournament is one of the most exciting national holidays. Teams from across Asia and the South Pacific fight to catch the biggest bite at the Uliga Dock on Saturday and Sunday, and receive awards at the Marshall Islands Resort Poolside on Sunday.

Manit (Custom) Day

The most important aspect of Marshall Islands culture, family, is the focus of this cultural festival held the last Friday of September. Anyone on the islands can set up booths and sell food or handicrafts outside the Alele Museum. Basket weaving and coconut husking are among the most popular contests. Local school children perform traditional dances, skits, songs, and stories. The day coincides with the week-long Lutok Kobban Alele festival created to preserve and promote Marshallese culture.

Gospel Day

On the first Friday of December, the population of the Marshall Islands celebrates this national holiday in honor of the American missionaries who brought Christianity to the isolated islands. Like Thanksgiving in North America, family and food are a main focus, but church services play an even more important role in Gospel Day.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Kiribati - Food and Restaurants

Entertainment and dining out are quite low-key in Kiribati and confined to the main towns and villages in hotels and guesthouses. The local cuisine is seafood-based and dishes are somewhat of an acquired taste, with Western menus limited. Note that alcohol is banned in some of the Outer Islands.

Bars and Pubbing in Kiribati

Bars are few and far between, though there are places to kickback on the main islets of Tarawa, and most of the major hotels have some kind of watering hole. Betio has a few of note, including the Royal Bar (Central Betio, South Tawara), which is air-conditioned and open until about midnight on weekends and 10:00 p.m. during the week. Another popular spot in Betio is Captains Bar (Betio, South Tawara), best known for their monthly weigh-ins of the Betio Game Fishing Club.

Tarawa, the capital, has several spots, including the so-called called kava bars and the Midtown (South Tarawa) disco, which is open until late. The Night Spot also has a dance floor, while the Lagoon Club (Ambo, South Tawara) is the most popular nightlife option on the islet. On Christmas Island, London is the main settlement, although tourist hotels have the pick of the bars such as in the Captain Cook Hotel.

For local music and dancing, consider attending "Island Nights," which are all about showcasing traditional Micronesian culture.

Dining and Cuisine in Kiribati
I-Kiribati traditional food is based on rice and fish, with the sashimi being as good and as fresh as it gets. The palu sami (a coconut cream-curry powder-taro leave-seaweed concoction) is a Kiribati specialty, though visitors may want to try it with chicken or pork as opposed to plain. In the south, be sure to try the pandanus fruit with coconut cream.

There's a lack of Western restaurants, although the bigger hotels and guesthouses have full menus, but expect to pay more. Fruits and vegetables are also quite limited and equally pricey, while coconuts are ubiquitous and very nutritious.

There are plenty of eateries in the main towns of Kiribati, including fast food and Chinese restaurants. Bairiki and Betio have several options, including Amms Restaurant (Betio, South Tawara), Matarena's Restaurant (Bairiki, South Tawara) near the wharf and the Café (Bairiki, South Tawara). 

You can also find fish and chips in Betio. The Ambo Lagoon Club (Ambo, South Tawara) is good for both eating and drinking and has a pool and sports on TV. There's a maneaba meeting house here, too, which is good for local feasts and movies.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Sunday 22 October 2017

Kiribati - Marriage and Family

Marriage : First marriages, in particular, ideally are arranged by the parents or at least require their consent, but elopements are becoming more common. In theory, persons who share an ancestor within three generations, or who trace descent from a more distant common ancestor but themselves belong to different generations, are forbidden to marry. In practice, reaction to a proposed marriage that would join together distant relatives depends on whether the immediate families of the young people have been treating one another as kinsfolk. Some families still follow the old custom of rejoicing publicly when a bride has demonstrated her virginity. Most young married people reside with the husbands' parents until they are considered ready for independent life. Until recently, they were also expected to reside permanently on land the husband had inherited either through his father or through his mother. A man who agreed to live with his wife's kin was thought to yield much of his authority over his household. A permanently separated couple is regarded as divorced by the community if not by the church. Once children have been born, kin on both sides will put pressure on the spouses to reconcile or will try to persuade an unmarried sibling to act as stepparent. Sororal polygyny is dying out.

Domestic Units : The people who cook and eat meals together are considered a family. The teenage boys and young unmarried men of the neighborhood often sleep in an unoccupied house but eat with their families. A nuclear family or a currently unmarried woman and her children are ordinarily the minimal family units. As their own children grow up and leave home, couples often begin rearing a second family of grandchildren or wards.

Other helpful or dependent kinsfolk may be present as well. Families outside
South Tarawa average 5.8 persons.

Inheritance : Parents leave their house to one of their Children, often when they retire to stay with each of their children in turn. Portable artifacts are probably distributed informally, but large canoes tend to be treated like land. Items of esoteric knowledge, which are considered a kind of personal property, may be bestowed on a favorite child, on another young relative, or even on an outsider.

Socialization : A good deal of personal independence is conceded even to young children, who at least in theory have the right to own property and to decide with whom they will live. Small children are treated indulgently by everyone, even when they act aggressively.

Older children are expected to help with household tasks, to show respect for senior kinsfolk, and to refrain from calling attention to themselves when adults are present. Physical punishment is acceptable once a child has reached the age of reason. Threats, ridicule, and scary stories about punitive agents from outside the family are commoner sanctions, however.

*culled from www.everyculture.com

Kiribati Holidays and Festivals

Kiribati holidays include an intriguing line-up of events, from the first to celebrate the New Year to a lively independence day "week" and a boisterous Christmas period. Traditional singing and dancing can be enjoyed at all times.

New Year's Day

Kiribati is the first country in the world to welcome in the New Year, albeit at the Line Islands, and events go off nationwide. All bars and guesthouses have something going on, along with traditional celebrations at the local
maneaba (meeting house).

Independence Day

This is the main event on the Kiribati social calendar, celebrating the day the Gilbert Islands gained independence from Great Britain in July of 1979. Though the holiday officially takes place on July 12, the festivities last for several days, starting around the 9th. South Tarawa sees most of the action, including obligatory canoe races, kite-flying and traditional dance, along with wrestling, rugby and other sports ventures.

Youth Day

August 4 sees the forward-thinking government focus its energy on the Kiribati youth, with the promise of better opportunities through various workshops and programs. Churches and meeting houses see most activity.


Locals attend church followed by much eating, gift-giving and merriment, just like they do back home. In Kiribati, however, there's also choir singing, dancing, canoe racing, and a myriad of other sports right up until New Year. Locals also go camping in Taiwan Park and visit nearby islands.

New Year's Eve

A huge event in Kiribati due to its position in the world, this island nation is the first place to countdown the New Year. There are low-key parties on the beaches and in the towns, while all expat bars and guesthouses put on special events.

Betio Game Fishing Competition

This is a popular event among expats in South Tarawa, with a monthly competition and weight-ins at Captains Bar in Betio to see the biggest catches.
Kiribati Music and Dance
Kiribati folk music and dance is unique to the region, with chanting accompanied by body percussion and guitar, while dance is typically bird-like with costumed performers. Maneaba have music and dance nightly in-season.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Saturday 21 October 2017


You are in Fiji. You have to meet one of the locals. Here is how to greet properly. You just say Bula. Bula in Fijian language means „health" or „life".
In Fiji it is a tradition that young man is asking girl's father for her hand. He brings a special present. If possible it is a whale's tooth. It is a symbol of wealth, status in society.

Fijian people wearing traditional clothes 
Let's assume that the young man got a positive response. His next step is to make some food. He has to send it to the bride's family. This is called „warming". Just before the wedding bride is tattooed. Having tattoos is sign of beauty in Fiji.

One of the essential parts of any wedding party in Fiji is a very popular drink called Kava. It is brewed from the crushed root of the Kava plant (Piper methysticum).
Ceremonial drinking of Kava is called Yagona.

Yagona - Ceremonial drinking of Kava 
In the past Kava was prepared by young village girls. They chewed the pieces of raw root. The soft pulp they created was then mixed with water.
Nowadays head of the ceremony mixes the powdered root with water in a big wooden bowl known as Tanoa. The root is strained through a cloth. When Kava is ready, the man claps with cupped hands.

Guests sit crossed legged on the floor. Each guest in turn is offered a bilo, a small bowl made from half of a coconut, containing Kava. The guest must clap before and after drinking.

Kava should not be spilled. It should be drunk in one continuous sip. Kava is thought to be antidepressant, good for fighting migraine headache and cramps. Kava is included in local riddles, chants, jokes etc.

Fiji Holidays and Festivals

Fiji is as famous for its festive people and events as it is for its island getaways. This stunning archipelago is awash in fun-filled celebrations throughout the year. Generally influenced by Fiji's astonishing natural landscape, historical happenings, or cultural traditions, visitors can get a taste of exciting Pacific heritage at the Hibiscus Festival which lasts for several days. Alternatively, you can try to catch the similar yet subtly different Fiji holiday, the Bula Festival in July.

Outrigger International Competition

Fiji is a sporting nation, and for its size, does particularly well on the global scale. The Outrigger International Competition is the main event in Nadi each year which draws hundreds of competitors and thousands of spectators. Other sporting events like the Fiji marathon are also held during this time.

Fiji International Jazz and Blues Festival

Port Denarau is host to the Fiji International Jazz and Blues Festival. It spans three days in May and welcomes many local and international jazz and blues musicians to perform. Australian, American, European, and New Zealand musicians make up most of the performers. The festival is a great time visit Port Denarau as the sights and sounds of the event are unmatched during the rest of the year.

Honoring the Founder of Modern Fiji Festival

The last Monday in May is a commemoration to the Father of Modern Fiji, Ratu Sir Lala Sakuna. The festivities last for an entire week, with many different towns and cities celebrating in their own way. The event concludes with a presidential speech relating to Fijian unity, and the statue of Ratu Sir Lala Sakuna is polished by locals.

World Music Festival

Fiji is the heart of the Pacific music culture. Each year in June, the World Music Festival packs the city of Suva. Bands from across the world and some local come to the city to showcase their exciting musical talents. Reggae is popular during this time, as is traditional Fiji music. It only started in 2006, but has grown considerably since then.

Bula Festival

Held across several days in mid-July, the Bula Fiji Festival is a fantastic celebration of the island nation's heritage. Singing and dancing take center stage in the city of Nadi, and a parade is usually the spotlight of the event. At the end of the celebrations, a young woman is crowned Miss Bula for the year.

Hibiscus Festival

The event is held in several areas around Fiji in the month of August and has recently spread to other Pacific Islands nations. The Miss Hibiscus title is a coveted part of the event, drawing thousands of entrants from across the Fiji islands. In addition, local arts, crafts, sports, music, food, dance, and songs are exhibited throughout the festival.

Diwali Festival

Due to Fiji's large Indian population, the Diwali Festival is one of the main events held on the islands. Celebrated in the month of October, Diwali (which is also known as the Festival of Lights) is characterized by fantastic light shows, traditional firecracker displays, and plenty of night-time fun. It isn't just the Indian population that gets into the swing of things, as all cultures love any excuse to party.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Cook Islands - Food and Restaurants

Polynesian and international cuisine is widely available on the Cook Islands. The most developed, such as Rarotonga and Aitutaki, are home to a variety of cafés, clubs and restaurants serving everything from traditional to modern fusion dishes. Local islanders and visitors alike enjoy an abundance of seafood, especially shellfish. All ingredients are sourced fresh, including fruits and vegetables.

Dining out is particularly interesting during "Island Nights," which are Polynesian dance shows accompanied by a local feast.

Umukai' , a succulent dish cooked in a special underground oven, is a must try, along with many other local specialties like ika mata , raw fish cooked with coconut milk and finely chopped vegetables and curried eke , octopus in coconut curry. Ungakoa is a type of shellfish, eaten as you would an oyster (cooked or raw). It is often served with cooked taro (green banana).

White crabs are another Cook Islands specialty, and are often garnished or served with grated coconut and/or cheese. Poke is a traditional pudding made from different types of fruit, commonly banana and pawpaw that is cooked with coconut milk. Most local restaurants serve these traditional plates, but a number also feature Indian, Chinese, continental, and Italian. There are bars that offer live entertainment and nightspots stay open late, past midnight on the weekends.

Bars and Pubbing in the Cook Islands

Aside from the usual Island Nights put on by major hotels, a number of licensed bars also offer live entertainment and quality wines, spirits and cocktails.

Whatever Bar and Grill (Ara Tap, Avarua) is a truly unique place that should not be missed. It is located just off the main road heading out of the capital, on a rooftop overlooking the town and the harbor. This hip place attracts night owls of all ages and is at its liveliest on Fridays and Saturdays.

If you are looking for good value on the Cook Islands, head to Staircase Restaurant and Bar (Avarua, Rarotonga) on a Thursday or Friday for a host of live bands and DJs. Rehab (Avarua, Rarotonga) keeps things modern with its discotheque ambiance, complete with thumping music and strobe lights.

Hideaway Bar (Cook's Corner Arcade, Avarua), tucked away in a little corner on Avarua's coast features live music and international DJs. There are many other bars and clubs elsewhere on Rarotonga, as well as on Aitutaki (Cook Island's second largest island).

Dining and Cuisine in the Cook Islands

Beachside dining is always a pleasure, but it is especially satisfying on the secluded sands of the Cook Islands. Les Palmiers Café and Grill on Muri Beach (Muri, Rarotonga) is one of the most popular restaurants. Its traditional décor will remind you of the tropical gardens and waterfalls of the Te Vara Nui Village. It offers first-class meals that are a fusion of Mediterranean and European recipes. On the menu are succulent seafood, grilled meats, fresh salads, mouthwatering desserts, crepes, coffees, smoothies, homemade gelato, and unique cocktails.

Best known for its local offerings, Vaima Restaurant (Vaimaanga, Rarotonga) is a popular setting for all kinds of functions, from parties to weddings. This restaurant offers fresh local fish, as well as imported New Zealand meat, homemade desserts, and plenty of vegetarian options. It has a bar with a large TV and a long wine list, and is the place to go on the Cook Islands if you are craving a shot of Scottish whisky.

The beautiful Aitutaki Island has its own share of top notch restaurants and cafés, starting from Koru Café (Aitutaki), which has a delicious menu of Chinese, Italian and Thai, filling breakfasts, and picnic lunches and barbecue packs for a day out. It is located on the way to the stunning Ootu Beach, and is a perfect pit stop before heading to the sandy shores.

Rapae Bay Restaurant (Amuri, Aitutaki) specializes in South Pacific cuisine and seafood and is one of the best hotel restaurants on the Cook Islands, overlooking the lagoon and the beach.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Friday 20 October 2017

Cook Islands Wedding - The Legal Side

Legally it is a very straightforward process to have a wedding in the Cook Islands for citizens from New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Canada, and most European countries. However some countries may require more documentation than mentioned below, so we recommend that you check with your country's marriage licensing department or agency if in anyway unsure of what is required.

Cook Islands weddings and marriage licenses are internationally recognized and legally binding worldwide, as the Cook Islands are one of over ninety countries that have ratified The Hague Convention which recognizes that governments can legalise documents intended for use in other countries where they are required with an apostille, or seal. Marriage licenses are one such type of document that requires an apostille.

The legal age of consent to marry and have a Cook Islands wedding is 20 years, otherwise written approval by parents is required.

Applications for a Wedding licence cannot be made outside the Cook Islands and must be made in person to the Registrar of Marriages in the Cook Islands at least 3 business working days prior to the marriage, however this time period can be shortened for a nominal fee.

The following documents are required:

*Your full passport and birth certificates will be required when filling out the "Notice of Intended Marriage" at the Registrar's Office.

*A copy of the Decree Absolute if divorced
If you have been widowed you will need to provide the Death Certificate of your spouse.

*All documentation must be in English or translated into English.

*You may choose either a wedding celebrant (non-religious) or a Minister to perform the ceremony at your Cook Islands wedding.

Religious denominations in the Cook Islands include the Cook Island Christian Church, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Apostolic, Assembly of God, Jehovah Witness and Baha'i.

You can choose to get married on one of our magical beaches or tropical gardens, an uninhabited islet in the lagoon, a local church, or at your resort, such as the white sandy beach outside Sea Change Villas, complete with their "island famous" coconut heart.

Your wedding ceremony can simply be the two of you and your celebrant, along with two witnesses for signing the marriage register, through to a full wedding party and guests. You can choose to wear traditional wedding attire, or you may go for a more Polynesian style of dress or tropical island feeling - complete with bare feet.

When arranging your flights you have to take into account that, ideally, you need to be in the Cook Islands for at least three working days prior to your planned wedding date to complete the necessary legal requirements and paperwork.

For New Zealanders and Australians you have to extra vigilant when planning your travel as you fly through the international dateline to get to Rarotonga, which means you literally go back a day in time.

We strongly recommend that you work with a local Cook Islands wedding planner to ensure that 'all your bases are covered' - they are knowledgeable and effective, so ensuring you enjoy a stress free build up to your wedding day.

All the larger resorts have their own wedding organisers, but there are also several independent wedding planners, such as Wedded Bliss, who work with many Cook Islands Wedding accommodations , including the luxurious resort of Sea Change Villas for your wedding. They will take care of everything for you which includes advice and pre-planning prior to your arrival in Rarotonga, your personal consultation after arrival, transport to and from the Justice Department for your licence application, and take charge of all the other arrangements ensuring that your special day is truly memorable – and stress free.

Sea Change Villas offer a choice of Cook Islands wedding packages from a simple ceremony right through to a full luxury package with all the trimmings.

Wedded Bliss at Sea Change Villas.

Thursday 19 October 2017

Cook Islands Holidays and Festivals

Celebrations are an integral part of the preservation of culture on the Cook Islands. In addition to local Cook Islands holidays that mark historic dates, many interesting events are held throughout the year to showcase fascinating traditions, important art forms and promote camaraderie and solidarity amongst the islanders with dance and music.

Dancer of the Year (Te Mire Ura) Contest

One of the most popular events of the year, the Cook Islands dance-off is held annually at the National Auditorium of Rarotonga sometime in April or May. Bringing together some of the best dancers from across the land, the competition is divided by age group, from juniors to intermediates, seniors, and the "golden ladies."

International Kite Surfing Contest

Held on Aitutaki in late June, the International Kite Surfing Contest is an annual festival that celebrates the rich natural gifts of the Cook Islands. The event attracts kite surfing enthusiasts and competitors from all over the world.

Whale Watching Season

Those who want to catch a glimpse of the gigantic whales that grace the shoreline should visit between the months of July and October. The waters are swarmed by gentle giants that show-off their aquatic skills, playfully flipping and jumping.

Te Maeva Nui

This cultural holiday on August 4 marks the annual celebration of the Cook Islands' self-rule, which was granted in 1965. The festival is a fusion of musical and dance extravaganzas, costume showcases, craft and art exhibits, and an exciting array of food that revolve around a different theme each year.

Tiare Festival

The Tiare Festival is an annual flower show held in Rarotonga in October. Among the highlights are the Miss Tiare Pageant and the Young Warrior Contest.

Gospel Days

Gospel Days celebrates the missions that brought Christianity to the Cook Islands. It is commemorated on October 26 with all kinds of presentations and dramatic religious reenactments.


Turama is the local celebration of All Saints' and All Souls' Day, which sees family members decorate the graves of loved ones with flowers and candles. People gather in cemeteries and share stories, usually after attending a requiem mass at the Avarua Cathedral. While not exactly a festive occasion, this November 1 event is an important part of the Cook Islands culture.

Vaka Eiva

Vaka Eiva or the Canoeing Festival is held during mid-November. The annual event hosts races around Rarotonga and attracts more than 850 competitors, divided into 100 teams. The winners receive the prestigious Pacific Cup.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Wednesday 11 October 2017

The Modern Bride's Guide To Traditional Wedding Customs

Although, as time passes by, weddings are becoming more and more personalised and modern, there are still matrimonial traditions that we hang onto. But when it comes to your own big day, which traditions will you hold steady to, and which will you buck? We've sorted out sentimental from obsolete, and sweet from scary.


Then: One of the most well-known traditions in the wedding world is the 'bouquet toss', where the bride will take her bouquet and blindly toss it over her shoulder to the single women present at the wedding—whoever catches the flowers will be the next to marry, or so says tradition.

Now: Although most brides and groom still participate in this one as a fun part of their day, the modern bride has begun leaning away from giving away one of her most sentimental accessories from her wedding. Now there are options to have a second 'tossing bouquet' for the bride, in order to keep her original flowers.


Then: Similarly to the bouquet, the garter (a lace band of fabric that sits on the upper thigh) is also meant to be tossed—here to the single men of the party (or sometimes, to the partner of whomever catches the bouquet). This stems from a tradition where men and women at the wedding would rush at the bride and rip her wedding dress—retaining part of the dress was a sign of good luck.

Now: Like the bouquet, garter tosses are still common practice in the modern world—although they are not so violent as in the past and not as popular as the bouquet. Some women find they aren't comfortable with the removal process and choose to skip it altogether.


Then: Way back when, brides were 'given away' (literally) on their wedding days as they were still considered to be the 'property' of their fathers. In exchange for a dowry, they were then 'handed' to their new family at the wedding.

Now: Fortunately the 'giving away' tradition has morphed itself in a more family-friendly ordeal, with the process taking on a sentimental meaning rather than a literal one. Some brides still like to incorporate their fathers in this way, whilst some like to involve their mothers as well. It is now also common practice for the bride to walk down the aisle on her own.


Then: Kinda like the whole 'giving away' the bride thing, carrying the bride over the threshold is also a relic of a time past when brides were not always so keen on the marriage gig and therefore had to be forcefully taken into the house. Ancient Romans also believed that bad spirits lurked in the doorways of newlyweds' houses as a last-ditch effort to curse them, so the groom carried the bride over the threshold so that the spirits didn't enter her through her feet (fun!).

Now: If done at all, this one is just a fun tradition to add into the day (and it shows off how strong your new husband is—bonus).


Then: It's a very common superstition that it is bad luck to see the bride in her wedding dress before the wedding. This is a remnant of a time when marriages were more on the arranged side and were counted more as business deals then acts of love. If a family was marrying off their daughter in exchange for lands, goods or titles, not seeing the bride before the wedding took away the chance of the groom backing out if he considered her not attractive enough (yeesh).

Now: Thankfully (and hopefully), nowadays most grooms are familiar with what their wives-to-be look like before they marry them, so the original function of this tradition is defunct. However, some couples choose to incorporate it as they still believe in the bad luck superstition, or they believe it makes seeing the bride walking down the aisle more emotional and memorable.


Then: Up until the 1800s, it was common practice for the bride to wear a coloured wedding dress—reds, blues and yellows were particularly popular. However, after Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 wearing a white court dress, the popularity of white dresses rose. Thereafter they became associated with purity and virginity and were then standard.

Now: Since Queen Victoria's historic dress, the white dress has cemented itself as the go-to for wedding dresses. However coloured dresses are rising in popularity in modern times.


Then: In the past bridesmaids were included in the wedding ceremony for two reasons, one being to confuse both vengeful spirits and jealous suitors (what's the difference, are we right?) by dressing in similar dresses and donning veils in likeness to the bride. Thus, if a suitor and/or angry spirit turned up, they wouldn't know which was the bride. Second, traditionally 10 witnesses were required to validate the marriage, bridesmaids and groomsmen were necessary for this.

Now: Nowadays the practice is a lot less scary. Bridesmaids are there for emotional and practical support and are usually family members or close friends. (The matching bridesmaid dresses tradition is still alive, however, although not for the confusion reason).


Then: Back when 'marriage by capture' (AKA kidnapping) was still popular, groomsmen were not chosen for their emotional attachments to the groom, but for their strength. If the bride protested to the marriage, the groomsmen were there to physically fight off her family, allowing the groom to escape with his bride.

Now: It's a lot less sinister nowadays, and more about mateship then kidnapping.


Then: Like both the 'not seeing the bride before the wedding' tradition and the 'using bridesmaids to confuse people' tradition, the veil was used to hide the bride's face for both modesty, purity and for not-making-the-groom-run-away purposes. In some ancient cases, the white veil over the bride's face represented her 'purity', and was only lifted by the groom when they went to consummate the marriage.

Now: Now bridal veils have a much less ominous purpose and are usually just accessories. Lifting the veil usually occurs at the beginning of the ceremony and is done by either the groom or the bride herself.


Then: Although it's not known for sure, the superstition of "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" is thought to have been to assist brides in warding off the Evil Eye—the Evil Eye's purpose being to curse the bride's fertility. The 'old' and 'new' counterparts were to confuse the Evil Eye, whereas the 'borrowed' item was meant to be an undergarment from a woman who had already had a child—therefore protecting the bride against barrenness. The 'blue' part is usually thought to be a good luck charm.

Now: Thankfully now this tradition is just a fun addition to the day.


Then: In the olden days showering the newlyweds with rice (as well as oats, grains and dried corn) was to wish them prosperity, good luck and fortune.

Now: Now it's just good fun—rice is often overlooked for nicer and prettier alternatives like flower petals, streamers, confetti or sprinkles.

*culled from www.elle.com.au

Australia Holidays and Festivals

Known for loving life and living in the moment, there are many Australia holidays and festivals of culture. From regular Saturday afternoon barbecues locals host each week to the large, national celebrations that occur several times a year, Australian festivals and events are becoming world renowned. Sports are a massive part of the culture as is the indigenous heritage that proudly remains after more than two centuries of European influence. Visitors can experience 'footy madness' during Melbourne's Aussie Rules grand final soccer day in September. Or, perhaps the Brisbane Festival in October will entice.

Australia Day

Australia Day commemorates the anniversary of the first fleet landing on January 26, 1788. Head to the nearest beach or park for a fun-filled day of barbecues, celebrations, and evening fireworks. Even though indigenous Australians generally don't celebrate this day, most of Australia views this as the year's most anticipated event. Since the first fleet landed at Sydney Cove, the area around the Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay, and the Harbour Bridge is where the most extravagant celebrations are held.

Sydney Mardi Gras

Every year between the end of February and the first Saturday of March, Sydney's Darlinghurst district transforms into the heart of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival. Attracting millions from around the globe, art and cultural events including a massive parade dominate. Visitors of all sexual preference are known to have a grand time.

Dreaming Festival

Held in the small town of Woodford, just a 90 minute drive from Brisbane, the Dreaming Festival is a national showcase that puts this small town on the map. Held in June over three days, this event highlights the best of indigenous culture, including craft workshops, dancing, music, cooking events, and storytelling.

AFL Grand Final Day

On the third Saturday in September, Melbourne braces itself for the most anticipated sporting event in the country—the AFL Grand Final. Just being in Melbourne during this time is spectacular, but having tickets to the game is astounding. The color, the shows, the soccer, and the non-stop buzz is almost unseen anywhere else in the world.

Brisbane Festival

A beautiful city and a great place to visit anytime in the year, Brisbane is especially memorable in September and October when the Brisbane Festival attracts millions. From the grand fireworks opening Riverfest, to the cultural performances within South Bank, this celebration lasts for several weeks, and possesses something for everyone.

Melbourne International Arts Festival

For 17 days in October, Melbourne is on show to the world. Its international arts festival is a bustling and thriving event that showcases dance, music, art, and other cultural performances. Fitzroy Gardens, Southbank, Federation Square, and the Botanical Gardens are just some of the hosting arenas spread around town.

Melbourne Cup – Spring Racing Carnival

Known as the 'race that stops a nation,' the Melbourne Cup has become a significant event on the Australian calendar. The country's greatest sporting event is held on the first Tuesday in November at Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne. Fashion plays a major role and several racing carnivals are held outside of the main event, including Derby Day and Oaks Day.

New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve in Australia is big. Rivaling New Year celebrations in London, Paris, New York and Rio, Sydney Harbour comes alive during this event. Music, food, fireworks, light shows and more are found before and after the coming of the New Year. However, tourists can also find celebrations occurring along beaches, river banks and community areas throughout Australia.

*culled from www.iexplore.com

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Contemporary Vietnamese Traditional Weddings

The pace of change
Modern traditional weddings in Vietnam differ significantly to those in the past. The most obvious change is the cost – the social pressure of 'face' leads some families to spend up to the equivalent of ten year's salary. Another obvious difference is the average age of the couple.

In the past, a groom of 20 with an 18-year-old bride would be considered an ideal couple. Today, education, a degree of female emancipation, and the need to pursue a career have raised the figures by five or even ten years for middle-class city dwellers. Working class couples tend to marry earlier.

Contemporary beliefs

The tradition of matchmaking has largely faded away, but most parents have firm views – were they to decide that the prospective spouse was unsuitable, most young people would accept the verdict and break off the relationship.

Some young people seek the services of an astrologer in advance to determine whether their future liaison will be successful. If the result were negative, most would withdraw.

Women a couple of years over 30 are considered to be past their sell-by date – for men, it's a about 35. The possibility of being left on the shelf is frightening, especially for women. As the deadline draws nearer, individuals' and families' criteria become looser – better an unsuitable partner than no partner!

Arranging the marriage

The first stage of marriage is usually when the young man's parents consult a fortune-teller to see whether the couple is destined to live together as husband and wife. If so, he will formally request the young woman's hand.

The actual request is made by a party comprising the young man's parents, or aunt and uncle if he is an orphan, and a go-between who go to meet the young woman's parents. The party takes gifts such as betel leaves and areca nuts, and asks what the family requires for their daughter's hand. The young woman's parents will usually ask for a sum of money to cover the costs of the marriage preparations.

The engagement

The next stage in the process is the engagement, which, once the consent has been given, usually follows several months after. However, in some circumstances such as university or one partner working abroad, it can be much longer.

Vietnamese people believe that some days are particularly auspicious, so choosing appropriate days for the engagement and the wedding is another task for the fortune-teller.

If the fiancée or her family breaks off the engagement for any reason, all of the gifts must be returned to the young man's family. If the fiancé backs out before the big day, her family keeps them.

The engagement is a solemn ceremony. On the day, the young man will travel with his family to the young woman's house bearing gifts of betel nuts, cake, wine, cigarettes and so on. Young women wear red ao dais and a banquet is held after formal rituals are performed before the ancestral altar. The engagement ceremony is a chance for the young woman's family to meet their future son-in-law.

The wedding day
The final stage is the wedding day. Traditionally, the couple must stay apart on the day before to prevent bad luck. On the night before, the bride's mother will tend her daughter's hair with several combs.

Every comb means something, but the most important is the third comb – at that time she will ask for luck and happiness her new home.

On the big day, the bride's family and invited guests assemble at her house to await the arrival of the bridegroom. Shortly before the groom's party is due, the bride slips away to don her wedding dress.

Gifts from the groom's family
The groom's parents and immediate relatives are preceded by an odd number of young men smartly dressed in shirt and tie, and dark trousers. They each carry a tray covered in a red cloth, or alternatively a large red and gold canister, containing gifts of betel leaves, areca nuts, wine, fruit, cakes, tea and so on.

In the past, they would have walked, but today most wedding parties opt for cars and change to cyclos for the last part of the journey.

Red is the dominant colour in a traditional Vietnamese wedding – it's considered a lucky colour and will lead to a rosy future.

Upon arrival the young men dismount and are met by the same number of young women dressed in red ao dais. The men hand the gifts to the women who take them inside.

Each young woman hands her male counterpart a small amount of money to designate that they are 'working' – there is a superstition that being an unpaid helper at a wedding will mean that you won't marry.

Accepting the gifts

The leading couple of the groom's party enters the bride's house carrying a tray of small cups of wine and invite the brides parents to take a sip. By accepting the toast, the bride's parents symbolically agree to admit the groom's party. A few years ago, this would be accompanied by firecrackers, but many accidents and a subsequent ban put an end to the tradition.

The groom's family introduce themselves and ask permission for their son to marry his bride. A Master of Ceremonies (usually a respected person chosen from the bride's relatives) instructs the bride's parents to present their daughter. The bride then enters. 
Traditionally, this will be a red au dai. 
The groom will wear a dark suit or, more traditionally, a black ao dai.

The ceremony

The wedding ceremony begins in front of the altar. The bride and the groom kneel down and pray, asking their ancestors' permission to be married and their blessing on their family-to-be. The couple then turn around and bow to the bride's parents to thank them for raising and protecting her since birth.

They then bow their heads towards each other to show their gratitude and respect to their soon-to-be husband or wife. The Master of Ceremonies then advises the wedding couple on starting a new family and the two sets of parents take turns to share their experiences and give blessings.

The groom and the bride then exchange wedding rings, and the parents give the newly wedded couple gold bracelets, earrings and other valuable gifts.

The wedding banquet

After the marriage, both wedding parties leave to join guests that were not invited to the marriage ceremony at a large banquet. This is usually a large gathering, often in the hundreds and sometimes more. The groom, bride, and their family are once again introduced to the guests and everyone drinks a toast. Dinner or lunch is served at the table.

During the reception, the groom, bride, and their parents visit each table to thank their guests. In return, the guests give envelopes containing wedding cards, money gifts and a blessing to the newly wedded couple.

After the banquet, the groom's party and the bride leave for the groom's house, where she will live. Later, the bride's party follows to inspect the accommodation – particularly the marital chamber.

Vietnam Holidays and Festivals

There are countless Vietnam holidays, but they use the lunar calendar so dates vary from year to year in a span of a few months. The Tết festival (Vietnamese New Year) and Tết Trung Thu (Mid-Autumn Festival) are the most popular, but all are a cultural celebration not to miss out. Food is a central focus as all feature special dishes reserved only for major celebrations.

Tết Festival

The most important and busiest festival in Vietnam, everyone returns home to be with their family. For visitors, it is a colorful time, as streets are decorated with lanterns and lights. The celebratory meal consists of four dishes, giò (Vietnamese sausage), ninh (stew), nem (spring rolls), and mọc (meat balls).

Lim Festival

This event takes place every year on the 13th day of the first lunar month in the village of Lim to honor the Quan Ho folk song, which has been part of the culture in the Red River Delta for centuries. This festival features the most skilled singers of the north, but there is also a weaving competition and various other activities.

Hung Temple Festival

Popular with both locals and visitors, this three-day Vietnamese festival runs from the 9th to the 11th of the third lunar month on Nghia Linh Mountain in the northwest. Its focus is to worship the Hung Kings and consists of a feast of fresh fruit, cake, and dumplings, as well as a procession followed by traditional songs and an opera performance.

Whale Festival

Visitors must travel to Quang Nam, west of Da Nang, for this festival, which is held to worship the whale. It is one of the country's biggest water events and is predominately celebrated by fisherman. Houses and boats are decorated, and a procession of ships is led into the sea.

Tết Trung Thu

On the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, many celebrate the harvest by worshipping the Moon genie. It is one of the most impressive festivals in Vietnam and is particularly exiting for children, as they get plenty of toys. Square moon cakes are eaten by all, while children light lanterns and participate in a procession. Lion dancers accompanied by gongs and bells roam the streets.

Oc Om Boc Festival

A religious festival to worship the moon god, he is celebrated for bringing fish to the river and good crops. It takes place in the Mekong Delta on the full moon of the 10th lunar month and starts by offering fresh fruit and rice flakes. Lanterns are released from land and boats, a practice which is meant to rid the area of the humidity and darkness of the rainy season. Thousands of people come to see the boat race.

*culled from www.iexplore.com
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