The culture of the people of Tonga is unique in many ways, with many Tongans still holding true to their original traditions and cultures. Tongan culture is distinctive in that the country is the only Pacific Island nation that has never been colonised by a foreign country, with the monarchy and its cultural structure continuing after 1000 years of rule. The monarchy plays a dominant and significant role in Tongan history and the day to day life of Tongan people, and coupled with a sense of pride in the Tongan culture makes visiting this island nation a one-of-its-kind experience.
More recently, Christianity has had a powerful effect on Tongan culture, with the island nearly having more churches per capita than any other place on earth. Sunday has been set aside by law as a day of rest in Tonga, with the sound of hymns and songs echoing throughout the nation. Visitors are welcome to enjoy a taste of Tongan culture by attending these services, and many find it an enjoyable and moving experience.
The people of Tonga are renowned for their outstanding craftsmanship, with generations of carvers and weavers learning their trade from their parents before them. A range of handicrafts and arts that reflect the nature of the culture in Tonga can be found at stands and markets throughout the islands, with tourists and visitors able to take home a memento of their time spent in Tonga. One of the more well-known Tongan crafts is the fashioning of Tapa, an ornamental bark cloth that is painted with culturally traditional characters and outlines. Tapa is often given as a gift in a show of respect at births, funerals, and weddings.
Tonga has developed its own style of clothing influenced by Western ideas, being a lengthy tupenu, a kind of sarong, for women, and a shorter tupena designed for men. Tongan women will often wear a more modern dress over the top of their tupenu, with men wearing a casual shirt or even a formal shirt and suit if the occasion arises. Some Methodist preachers still wear long frock coats which have been made in Tonga, a unique part of the Tongan cultural experience.
Dancing and music is another important part of the culture in Tonga. Dancers learn to move their arms and legs in an involved pattern to create a graceful and majestic dance form, with performers adorned in stunning bracelets, garlands, and a feathered headpiece called a tekiteki. These dances, along with traditional songs, have been learnt by generations of performers, dating back many years.