Kiribati — Festivals and Events
Kiribati has an intriguing line-up of events, from the first to celebrate the New Year to a lively independence day "week" and a boisterous Christmas period. Traditional singing and dancing can be enjoyed at all times.
New Year’s Day
Kiribati is the first country in the world to welcome in the New Year, albeit at the Line Islands, and events go off nationwide. All bars and guesthouses have something going on, along with traditional celebrations at the local maneaba (meeting house).
This is the main event on the Kiribati social calendar, celebrating the day the Gilbert Islands gained independence from Great Britain in July of 1979. Though the holiday officially takes place on July 12, the festivities last for several days, starting around the 9th. South Tarawa sees most of the action, including obligatory canoe races, kite-flying and traditional dance, along with wrestling, rugby and other sports ventures.
August 4 sees the forward-thinking government focus its energy on the Kiribati youth, with the promise of better opportunities through various workshops and programs. Churches and meeting houses see most activity.
Locals attend church followed by much eating, gift-giving and merriment, just like they do back home. In Kiribati, however, there’s also choir singing, dancing, canoe racing, and a myriad of other sports right up until New Year. Locals also go camping in Taiwan Park and visit nearby islands.
New Year’s Eve
A huge event in Kiribati due to its position in the world, this island nation is the first place to countdown the New Year. There are low-key parties on the beaches and in the towns, while all expat bars and guesthouses put on special events.
Betio Game Fishing Competition
This is a popular event among expats in South Tarawa, with a monthly competition and weight-ins at Captains Bar in Betio to see the biggest catches.
Kiribati Music and Dance
Kiribati folk music and dance is unique to the region, with chanting accompanied by body percussion and guitar, while dance is typically bird-like with costumed performers. Maneaba have music and dance nightly in-season.