Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tongan Cemeteries

Tongans have extensive ceremonies centered around death. Their cemeteries are among the brightest spots in a morose society.

We happened to pass a funeral at night. It was an elaborate affair which looked to me like a subdued beer tent festivity, there were so many guests, tables and food. A small open tent with palm leaf walls and floor was reserved for the older relatives of the dear departed. They sat there quietly in their black clothing topped with palm leaf skirts.

The royal family's cemetery is built in the European tradition: a grassy expanse, stone monuments, real flowers, none of that tacky plastic good enough for the clod hoppers from the hinterland bush. (I gleaned that attitude of superiority from a Tongan message board.) Note that it is fenced in. The nice small churches also had fenced in yards. It took me a few days to figure out why.

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