Guam’s indigenous people commemorate the lunar New Year

TUMON, Guam - On January 22, 2012, hundreds will gather to celebrate the release of the 2012 Chamorro Lunar Calendar.

Guam’s indigenous people commemorate the lunar New Year

TUMON, Guam – On January 22, 2012, hundreds will gather to celebrate the release of the 2012 Chamorro Lunar Calendar. The fourth annual event commemorates the lunar New Year, which begins the following day.

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Chamorros are Guam’s indigenous people, and the calendar contains tide charts and seasonal fishing predictions, which, hundreds of years ago, were passed on orally by Guam’s first inhabitants. The purpose of the calendar is to raise awareness about the area fishery ecosystem plan and preserve Chamorro vocabulary relative to fishing.

The event is produced by the Guam Fishermen’s Cooperative Association and promises to be a festival of food, culture, art, and music. The celebration will be held at the Fishermen’s Coop in Agana, Guam, next to Chamorro Village.

A highlight of the event is the preparation of a feast cooked in a chahan, or deep pit. Before modern cooking, a pit was dug, lined with rocks, filled with firewood, and burned. Rocks were also placed on the fire. Once the fire was extinguished, the food was placed among the hot rocks. The food was wrapped in banana leaves and tied with akgak, or pandanus leaves. The food was covered with more hot rocks, leaves, dirt, and still more leaves. According to the book, Ancient Chamorro Society, the village of Sinajana on Guam gets its name from food cooked in a chahan. Village attendees are invited to contribute food to the chahan feast, which will be shared with all in attendance.

“It gives me great pride to see local organizations preserving Chamorro culture through initiatives such as the lunar calendar,” said GVB General Manager Joann Camacho, “We have such a rich legacy of sharing, and the communal chahan feast is a great way to show residents and visitors alike true island hospitality.”

The theme of the event is “Surviving Climate Changes Through Chamorro Cultures and Traditions.” A “moonlight talk” on the theme harkens back to moonlit nights when lovers would get together to talk, according to John Calvo of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

An art contest for students, grades K-12, was held in October/November. The winning artwork appears in the lunar calendar, which will be released at the event.

In addition to the feast, there will be cooking demonstrations, food tastings, cultural dance performances, live music, and raffle giveaways.

The project was initiated by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council, which promotes environmentally-responsible fishing in American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawaii, and the US Pacific remote island areas.