Meaalofa which literally means “a thing of love” is the universal term that Samoans use to mean a gift. Gifts symbolize appreciation, respect, love, acknowledgement, and affirmation of special relationships. Meaalofa represents the giver’s feelings towards the receiver. Though come Samoans have embraced Christianity, their celebrations are still heavily influenced by their age-old culture.
Their principles in gift giving are based on:
- Transparency – so gift giving is usually conducted in public places.
- Clear purpose – there is a specific reason and occasion for every gift.
- Family – gifts are for maintaining and strengthening family bonds and relationships
- Spirituality – Samoans believe that the best gifts are for God and His representatives here on earth.
Samoan Gift Giving Etiquette
- Gifts are usually given publicly.
- You should never refuse a gift, this will be very offensive for the Samoans.
- Gifts are traditionally wrapped in handmade and hand painted bark cloth called Nowadays, modern Samoans use gift wrappers like we do.
- Gifts are always expected during business meetings and seen as a gesture of respect.
- When accepting gift, one should bow his head slightly and place the gift above his head with both hands for a moment.
Ideal Gifts for Samoans
- Handcrafted mats – these are considered the highest gift one can give and are given in almost every occasion.
- Money is a fine gift among Samoans.
- Food in huge amounts like a whole roast pig, boxed of canned goods, or baskets of cooked food.
- Items that came from your country is the standard gift for business meetings.
Samoan Gift Giving Occasions
- New Year – Samoans welcome the New Year with a huge celebration. Families decorate their houses with flowers and streamers and there are plenty of dancing, singing and exchange of gifts among family members and friends.
- Birthday – birthday gifts are expected for people who are celebrating their 21st, 40th, 50th, 60th, 70th, 75th, and so on. These are considered milestones and a feast is always prepared for the celebrant along with lavish gifts or money.
- Hostess – a guest should always bring gifts for his/her hostess when invited to her home. It is considered disrespectful if you come empty-handed. The usual gifts are flowers and chocolates.
- White Sunday – this occasion is celebrates childhood and is unique to Samoan culture. This event is celebrated every second Sunday of October wherein gifts are given to children.
- Weddings – traditionally, it is the bride’s family and the guests who receive more gifts than the bride and groom themselves. The bride’s family gives woven mats to the groom’s family and offer gifts, usually money, to guests with high status. These gifts, along with the cost of the wedding are shouldered by the bride’s family so the event can be very costly. The newlyweds are given things for the home and money.
- Funerals – gifts of mats or money are given to the family in mourning.
- Thank You – Samoans believe that the giver will receive more spiritual blessings than the receiver that is why thank you gifts are always given.
- Ava Ceremony – a formal ceremony when bestowing a chief title and when welcoming someone important. A feast and gifts of mats are always given.
- Formal Apologies – apologies always come with a gift and for the Samoans, a fine woven mat is a symbol of sincerity and is considered the highest gift one can give.
- Christmas – despite the heat because December falls in one of the hottest months in Samoa, the people still celebrates this occasion with festivities, and gift giving.