Back in August, I promised that I would tell you a little more in October about a holiday I learned about last year from a student project in our library: White Sunday. It’s celebrated today in Samoa, and by the Samoans in my community.
Pictures of White Sunday look like Confirmation Sunday or like a group of children being baptized. It is, in fact, a religious holiday that honors children, and all the children dress in crisp, white clothes. Children at my school who have celebrated White Sunday told me that they look forward to “the whole day.”
On White Sunday, the children lead the service by sharing Bible verses they have memorized, and sometimes they might do skits or little plays. Food is involved after the service, and the children get to go first. They are treated with great respect the whole day, and the children’s faces positively shone when they told me about the fun day.
I remember Christmas services in my childhood when all the kids memorized Bible “pieces.” I would get more and more nervous as the day approached, and I would be sure that I would mess it up and spoil the beautiful service. My stomach would be in knots. I can’t remember if I messed up or not during the actual programs, but I definitely remember the stress leading up to them! I am so impressed by the kids I talked to and how they looked so happy at being given the opportunity to share Bible verses with their church. Amazing!
I asked some of the kids how the holiday started, but they weren’t sure. What I’ve read about it on the internet is heartbreaking. I’ve tried to verify what I learned, but it’s been difficult. If anyone out there knows the origin of the holiday, I’d love to hear it! What I read is this: A ship from New Zealand carried an ill sailor along with the crates of goods in its hold, and the disease spread like wildfire through Samoa and the other islands where it docked. Many, many children died, and White Sunday developed as a way to celebrate the children who lived and to commemorate the ones who had died.
What impresses me about this story is that they obviously turned to their faith for comfort; a faith that had originally arrived by ships carrying missionaries, the same way that the disease had arrived. What a wonderful story of faith. People would be tempted, I would think, to turn away from anything that reminded them of how their children died. The light in the Samoan kids’ eyes, as they told me about their special day, looked to me like the light of Christ shining through the centuries, bringing hope out of darkness.
I enjoyed getting to know these Samoan neighbors a little better. I hope you did, too! Are there any neighbors you’d like to get to know better? Let me know in the comments!