Information about the Tonga

Almost two-thirds of the population of the Kingdom of Tonga live on its main island, Tongatapu. Although an increasing number of Tongans have moved into the only urban and commercial center, Nuku'alofa, where European and indigenous cultural and living patterns have blended, village life and kinship ties continue to be important throughout the country. Everyday life is heavily influenced by Polynesian traditions and especially by the Christian faith; for example, all commerce and entertainment activities cease from midnight Saturday until midnight Sunday, and the constitution declares the Sabbath to be sacred, forever.

Tongans, a Polynesian group with a very small mixture of Melanesian, represent more than 98% of the inhabitants. The rest are European, mixed European, and other Pacific Islanders. There also are several hundred Chinese.

Primary education between ages 6 and 14 is compulsory and free in state schools. Mission schools provide about 83% of the primary and 90% of the secondary level education. Higher education includes teacher training, nursing and medical training, a small private university, a women's business college, and a number of private agricultural schools. Most higher education is pursued overseas.

In Tonga, kava is drunk nightly at "kalapu" (Tongan for 'club') also called "faikava" (to do with kava). It is strictly a male affair, although women who serve the kava may be present. The female is usually an unmarried, young woman called the "tou'a." In the past, this was a position reserved for women being courted by an unmarried male and much respect was shown. These days, it is imperative that the tou'a not be related to anyone in the kalapu and if someone is found to be a relative of the tou's, he is forcibly removed from the club for that night, not the tou'a. Foreign girls, especialy volunteer workers from overseas are often invited to be a tou'a for a night but to do so they must have a thick skin as these days tou'a's can be treated in quite a sexist manner. All important occasions are also marked by drinking kava, including weddings, funerals and all church related functions. When a new king takes his throne, he must participate in ancient kava ceremonies that make his rule official. Often times music will accompany kava in the form of guitar playing and singing. In some of the outer islands of Tonga, Kava is drunk almost every night but on the main island, Tongatapu, it is usually drunk on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Kava drinking may last 8 or 9 hours on a regular basis. These days rugby is usually watched by the kava drinkers and songs are sung in the ad breaks. The singing is a very important part of the kava ceremony with traditional lovesongs being the favorite. On Saturday nights, a short stop for prayer is made at midnight (as the day moves to Sunday) and then hymns replace the lovesongs. These hymns are mostly traditional English hymns in tune with new Tongan words sung.

The above includes excerpts from Wikipedia.org, the free encyclopedia:

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