Easter in Fiji is very different to Easter in Australia and many other countries. Here in Fiji, most children won’t receive Easter eggs or gifts, but they will spend time with family and go to church.
Fiji is a multicultural country well known for its many unique cultural festivals and the Christian tradition of Easter is one of the most important for Christians, who make up over half the population. Today, the Sunday before Easter, is one of the biggest days of the religious calendar; Palm Sunday, or Children’s Sunday as it is called by the Methodist Church here.
While many Fijians normally attend church on Sunday, and tend to dress in their Sunday best, today sees thousands of children all over Fiji, dressed in predominately white with ties for the boys, ready for church. Most church services on Palm Sunday include a procession of children carrying palms, representing the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem.
If you happen to be near a church on Palm Sunday, it is well worth attending this special celebration for children, especially if it is a village church. You can be assured of a warm welcome, but be aware, the service will be in Fijian. Hang around afterwards, as many villages will put on a communal banquet, with singing and dancing.
Another part of the lead up to Easter here in Fiji, is the Cross Walk. While driving around Fiji over the next week, you may come across a procession of people, carrying a large wooden cross. This rather spectacular sight draws crowds of watchers, while many Fijians will join the cross bearers for the walk, even if they are not carrying the Cross. Every year, during Holy Week, people are chosen from the villages to take part in this special event, symbolising the last journey Christ took to Jerusalem. Originally only involving members of the Catholic Church, in 2014, the Methodist Church was asked to be involved, after it was decided the walk should not only be for the Catholics but for all people who believe in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The Cross Walk is treated with absolute respect by both participants, and all Christian Fijians.
I first saw this walk when driving between Lautoka and Nadi some years ago, and had to ask what it was, as it was not something I had never heard any talk of.
In some of the island areas, the cross is transported by boat, from island to island, with village men swimming and pushing the boat, while women ride in boats alongside singing.
If you happen to be in Fiji around Easter, regardless of your religious beliefs, or lack of, you have the chance to be involved in the celebration of this special time for Christians, with a Fijian twist.