Marshall Islands — Festivals and Events
Many Marshall Islands holidays have similar counterparts in the United States. During the same weekend North Americans observe Labor Day, Marshallese celebrate Rijerbal Day in honor of the islands’ working class. Another national holiday, Gospel Day, is similar to Thanksgiving, with a stronger emphasis on church services. Manit Day, however, celebrates the Marshallese’s own distinct culture. Sailing races and fishing tournaments are among the islands’ most popular sporting events.
Marshall Islands Memorial and Nuclear Victims Day
This tribute to the victims of the 1954 Bikini Atoll hydrogen bomb explosion ranks among the most serious of all Marshall Islands holidays. Bravo was the most powerful hydrogen bomb the United States had ever tested. People on no fewer than four atolls were forced to evacuate and several experienced severe radiation poisoning. March 1 is a day of prayer, emotional speeches, candlelight vigils, and somber reflection for the current residents of those atolls.
Each of the Marshall Islands celebrates the anniversary of the day the United States liberated each individual island from Japan during WWII on different days and in their own unique ways. The main Liberation Day event in Majuro is an exciting canoe race, while the atoll of Kwajalein celebrates its Liberation Day with a lively parade, flag waving and a field day between all local schools on Ebeye Beach.
Coconut Cup Regatta
Sailing crafts of all sizes from luxury yachts to traditional Marshallese canoes, are welcome to participate in this unique regatta held in Majuro between late March and early April. Even windsurfers can take part in the main Saturday afternoon race, which follows a triangular pattern to and from the Robert Reimers Enterprises complex. There are also races for miniature canoes called riwut and vessels built entirely from recycled materials. A weekend affair, prizes are awarded on Saturday, a picnic takes place on Sunday and the Marshall Islands Resort hosts a soirée on Monday.
Marshall Islands Constitution Day
May 1 is the anniversary of the day the first Marshall Islands constitution was signed. This was one of the first steps towards complete independence, and today, its people remember this significant event through parades, wreaths and field day competitions among local schools.
On the first Friday of each July, the Marshalls Billfish Club hosts this exciting fishing competition where vessels depart in the morning and return in the early evening to have their catches weighed and measured. Anglers receive prizes for the heaviest fish, biggest fish, largest number caught, and many more.
Mobil All Micronesia Fishing Tournament
Labor Day weekend in North America is the same weekend the Marshall Islands pays tribute to its working class during Rijerbal Day, held on the first Friday of September. This Marshalls Billfish Club-sponsored fishing tournament is one of the most exciting national holidays. Teams from across Asia and the South Pacific fight to catch the biggest bite at the Uliga Dock on Saturday and Sunday, and receive awards at the Marshall Islands Resort Poolside on Sunday.
Manit (Custom) Day
The most important aspect of Marshall Islands culture, family, is the focus of this cultural festival held the last Friday of September. Anyone on the islands can set up booths and sell food or handicrafts outside the Alele Museum. Basket weaving and coconut husking are among the most popular contests. Local school children perform traditional dances, skits, songs, and stories. The day coincides with the week-long Lutok Kobban Alele festival created to preserve and promote Marshallese culture.
On the first Friday of December, the population of the Marshall Islands celebrates this national holiday in honor of the American missionaries who brought Christianity to the isolated islands. Like Thanksgiving in North America, family and food are a main focus, but church services play an even more important role in Gospel Day.