Besides its spectacular dive sites and relaxing beaches, Fiji also boasts of its friendly people and interesting culture. Culture and festivals in Fiji combine the traditional and indigenous ways of Fijians with influences from India, China and Europe. The coming together of several traditional influences is quite apparent in Fijian language, food, beliefs, architecture and arts.
Locals and residents speak Fijian, Hindustani and English, which is why American, Australian and New Zealander travelers feel very comfortable in the islands. Although Fijian is the national language according to the National Constitution, about half of the total population still prefer English. The local Fijian, which is an Austronesian language of the Malayo-Polynesian family of languages, follows a Verb-Object-Subject structure similar to Arabic. (Example: “Goes to the beach John” instead of “John goes to the beach”.)
Fijian foods are mostly sea foods since there is so much water around. The Fijians are also fond of local vegetables cooked in pit ovens and with coconut milk. Generally, however, tourists do not worry about the choice of foods since there are tons of restaurants, cafes and food shops to choose from. There are Chinese, Indian and European restaurants all over, with a few Japanese and Korean.
About beliefs, a nation’s festivals are mostly based on the majority or most prominent religion. Fiji is basically a Christian nation. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the country has 64.5% Christians (mostly Roman Catholics), 27.9% are Hindus, and 6.3% are Muslims. The most important festivals or holidays are New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, National Youth Day, Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day, Queen’s Birthday (pertaining to Queen Elizabeth), Fiji Day, Diwali, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Not many countries celebrate Easter Monday, which only shows that Fijians are deeply rooted in their Roman Catholic faith; Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day commemorates the death of Ratu Sukuna, Fiji’s acknowledged National Father, on the last Monday of May. It is a week-long celebration of community events, speeches, and a polishing of Sukuna’s statue, although it was declared as no longer a national holiday since 2010; Fiji Day is on October 10, remembering October 10, 1970 when the British finally granted national independence to the islands; Diwali or Divali is a very important five-day Hindu festival also known as Festival of Lights. This is traditionally celebrated by families in their homes in mid-October or mid-November, while Boxing Day is a bank or public holiday on December 26, as commonly observed in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
For tourists who wish to see indigenous Fijian culture for real, a visit to the Navala Village located on the Nausori Highlands is very educational, and also a popular tourist attraction. Villagers live in traditional bamboo homes called “bures” in traditional architectural styles although their ways of living have adapted to the calls of modernization. Yet, basically in this village and throughout the islands, traditional ways, culture and festivals in Fiji are maintained and observed despite the arrival and acceptance of other races, nations and their beliefs.