The first Saturday after Christmas is the day when the villages around Niue congregate with food crops grown especially for the day, fish and many cartons of chickens and boxes of corned beef and store-bought goods are displayed. The occasion is called Fakaaue Tau, a traditional thanksgiving to the church pastor for the year gone and for the blessings for the new year.
This tradition is maintained mainly through the Ekalesia Niue church, the largest religious denomination with over 60 per cent of the population. For many families, taros are especially grown for the Fakaaue Tau, where most of the food will be given to the village pastor and his family.
For the villages without a pastor, the head deacon or village elder will accept the village galue (feast) from the village.
Some families participate in more than one Fakaaue Tau. The tradition varies between villages, for some the entire galue is given to the pastor and in other villages the galue is divided up between the pastor, head deacon and the church groups.
The smallest village Namukulu does not have a pastor but long-serving 86 year-old village elder Jack Willie Lipitoa has led the village Fakaaue Tau for decades. While there may be only four members in the church congregation, when it comes to the Fakaaue Tau, families with links to Namukulu all gather for the feast. There is a lunch put together for the day where Lady Fifita Talagi and the family of the late Sir Toke Talagi also take part. After the feast of cooked food is consumed, the galue is divided up between the families (pictured left), and the thanksgiving for Namukulu is done by 3 pm so those visiting from other villages can move on to the next village Fakaaue Tau.
For the village of Avatele, there is a gathering on the church grounds, and the three groups of the village, Faahi Toga, Lotouho, and Faahi Tokelau display their galue in a U- shape (pictured right) in front of their pastor Rev. Petesa Sionetuato. This year the village feast included over 300 bundles of taro, over 50 cartons of chickens, over 20 fish, boxes of corned beef, tuna, biscuits, and an assortment of store-bought goods.
The food baskets are gathered in front of the church leaders. These baskets, kato kau ua, are specially made for the occasion because the food must be presented to a higher standard than your normal feasts. The Fakaaue Tau is an occasion where certain traditional protocols of displaying and presenting food are strictly followed, right down to the leaves used to cover the food in the specially made baskets.
Traditionally, there are speeches to thank the Pastor and the church for the year gone but it is also an opportunity for the village to critique their church leaders and put forth their requests. This year it was mainly speeches of thanksgiving for Avatele for the return of their pastor Rev. Sionetuato who was away most of last year due to ill health. There are speeches of thanksgiving for the birth of new babies to several families in the village and for the success and achievements of the people of the village.
As the sun sets the Avatele church grounds are abuzz with activity as the galue is divided. The menfolk begin talking about the taro they will be growing for the next Fakaaue Tau while the women chat about how much they enjoyed the sweet treats served throughout the event by the family of the pastor. In twelve months’ time, the village will gather again at the church green for the next Fakaaue Tau.