The climatic conditions in Tonga can be described as warm and tropical. Tonga has just two seasons: cool and dry and hot and wet. The weather in the country is warm throughout the year and it can get hot in summers. The trade winds that blow from the east and southeast bring cool breezes that make the weather pleasant in late afternoons and early evenings. The average annual temperature in Tonga is 26°C and the temperature in the higher inland areas is comparatively low. The wet seasons starts from the month of December and lasts until April, they are also the warmest months of the year in Tonga. March is the wettest month in the country. The winter starts from the month of May and lasts until November, but there is no drastic change in temperature during these months. The typhoons hit Tonga from end January to mid March, which sometimes cause heavy rainstorms followed with floods and erosion.
Tongan is the official language of this island country. Tongan basically is an Austronesian language of the Oceanic subgroup. It has three social dialects used for communication; the first one is to communicate with the king, the second to communicate with the chiefs and nobles and the third dialect is for the common people. The talking chiefs on the islands are among the few people who speak and use all the three dialects. They are also the mediators in official ceremonies and encounters between the king, the nobles and the common people. The British protectorate that lasted for seventy years resulted in the widespread knowledge of English. In Tonga few of the village population have a little knowledge of English. In the capital city and other major towns, most business transactions are conducted in English. The knowledge of English is also provided to the students in Elementary schools and most of the other high schools in the country use English as the medium of instruction. Though over the years the use of English language has increased, despite that Tongan remains the most rampantly used language in country. It is more widely used in shops across the streets, offices, markets and churches.
Christianity is the major religion in the country. The major denominations include Methodists followed by 44% of the total population, Roman Catholics by 16.3%, Latter Day Saints by 12.3%, Free Church of Tonga by 11.4%, the Church of Tonga by 7.5%, 7th day Adventists by 2.3% and Anglicans by 0.6% of the total population. Methodists or Wesleyanism is the official religion of the state and the monarchy.
Methodists church in Tonga
The clothing of the men in Tonga usually comprises of ‘tupenu’ a cloth that has resemblance to the sarang, which is usually tied around the waist to cover the knees. In daily life or at workmen usually wear t-shirts that are topped over the tupenu. During ceremonial occasions men wear ta’ovala, which is a woven mat, generally worn over the tupenu and is wrapped around the waist and is secured with a kafa rope. The woman in the country wear the tupenu, but it is longer as it reaches the ankles. The tupenu is usually topped with a Kofu or dress. During occasions women wear ta’ovala or kiekie, which is string skirt attached to a waistband. During funerals huge ta’ovala is worn.
The staple diet of the people in Tonga comprises of banana, yams, taros and fishes that are usually baked in leaves. Coconut milk is the most common drink of the people in this country. Baked breadfruit is consumed by the people in its season. Pigs are killed and cooked only on ceremonial occasions like funerals, weddings, feasts or in honouring a visiting chief. Over the years new foodstuffs have been introduced in Tonga, among them is Watermelon, which is either eaten or mixed with coconut to form a popular drink called ‘Otai’. Large quantities of wheat and flour are now used to make variety of dishes. Among the popular include, ‘Topai’ a common funeral food which is prepared with both wheat and flour. Breakfast food of pork and yams are now replaced with white bread and soda. Prepared foods like canned corn beef and canned fish (tuna) is now available to the people even in the remotest villages. These prepared foodstuffs are either consumed straight away from the cans or are mixed with coconut milk and onions to make a different dish. Tea and coffee are among the most commonly consumed beverages. The traditional Tongan dishes include Lu, otai, ota ika and Vai Siaine.
- Ota ik