It has been 30 years since we purchased Motu Moie, our personal private Tahiti island, in 1989. My wife Inger and I have spent many of our Christmases on the motu. Tahitian style Christmas in paradise brings fond memories to both of us. We have been fortunate to have shared most of them with family and friends.
Our first Christmas visit on the motu was not only a celebration of Christmas in Tahiti, but also that our dream of owning this incredible private island paradise had actually come true. Prior to our purchase, the previous owners had not spent much time here recently, and their caretaker with him wife and children lived in a small round bungalow on the motu. Their kids have grown and moved to the northern Tuamotu Islands, but the caretaker still lives on the motu, keeping things clean and secure. We arrived a week before Christmas, bringing gifts for all, and decorated as best we could. A small Aito Tree was decorated with shells and a string of battery powered lights brought from Los Angeles.
Since our first Christmas visit, we have continued to celebrate the holiday with our caretaker and family many times. We have brought friends and family members along to experience Christmas in paradise. Although this is considered the rainy season in French Polynesia, the temperature varies little, usually from 75-83°F day and night. This is a busy time for tourism. Remember, it is winter in the U.S., and people do like to get away from the cold and snow and traffic. Did I mention that it never snows in Tahiti? There is still plenty of sunshine to enjoy all the adventures and activities. The waters are worm and water sports like windsurfing, snorkeling and kayaking are always enjoyable and fun to teach newcomers. The sights and sounds are also an inspiration. Palms blowing in the breeze, fish jumping in the lagoon, and sparkling smiles on the faces of happy people make this a welcome change from the hectic city life where most of us come from.
It is universally believed that humans first migrated to Polynesia from Southeast Asia about 2000 years ago. They adapted their mythological traditions, beliefs and deities to their new tropical home. As the centuries passed, the people spread out to different areas throughout the islands. The basic religious beliefs and mythology changed little throughout the island groups. They brought with them, these traditions and beliefs, and added new elements to their pantheon, specific to the local environment. This included adding new demigods to the traditional deities. They worshiped their gods, both greater and lesser with prayers, chants, rituals and sacrifice, in temples led by the chosen high priests and oracles. Nature guided them through their belief in the supernatural power called mana. Mana was either good or evil, and was contained in humans, animals and physical objects to varying degrees.
The beginning of Christianity started as early as 1797 when the London Missionary Society sent 29 missionaries to Tahiti. Their teachings were not accepted well at the beginning. It took many centuries for most of the population to eventually change their religious beliefs. The early ways have not been forgotten, but the majority of Tahitians now follow the Christian faith, and attend church regularly.
Christianity is currently the main Religion in French Polynesia. Catholic and Protestant missionaries came after Europeans discovered the islands. Today most Tahitian churches, throughout the islands, celebrate in the classic European/French manner, opening presents on either December 24th or 25th. Some of the homes decorate with lights, and even have Christmas trees.