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Tongan kisses for the new year

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Ko e hā ʻa e ʻuma faka-Tonga pea ʻoku ai fēfē? Ko e ʻuma faka-Tonga ʻoku tatau mo e ʻuma fakananamuʼ, ʻoku faingofua pe ʻene ai ka ko e ngaahi meʻa eni ke manatuʻi. 

  1. milimili kilimi ke namu lelei ʻa e mata kihe taimi fakafeiloaki
  2. ʻumaʻaki ʻa e kouʻaheʼ
  3. pea mihi pē ki ha taha ʻoku ke vaʻofi ʻaupito mo ia

What is a Tongan kiss and how is it done? It is also known as the sniff kiss, it is quite easy to do but you must remember several things.

  1. put on some lotion to smell nice when you greet others
  2. kiss using the cheeks
  3. then sniff only with someone who you are close with

Most of us are quite familiar with the Tongan kiss by the way our parents, grandparents and elderly greeted us. We Tongans use it as a sign of affection. While I may have once thought it an awkward greeting in my teenage years I now embrace it fully and greet my children no other way. Its origins must be ancient going back to our South-East Asian roots, as they also greet this way. It is also similar to the Māori greeting known as Hongi. While they greet using nose to nose, we Tongans use cheek-to-cheek. The significance of the sniff to the Māori people is that it symbolises the breath of life, breathing in the mana of the person you are greeting. Knowing all this, gives you a whole new perspective on the ʻuma faka-Tonga.

Tips in sharing the tradition of Tongan kisses with your children:

My children use to run away every time their grandma said it was milimili kilimi time. Since Iʼve explained to them the following tips they quite like receiving kisses in the Tongan manner.

  1. milimili kilimi is for smelling nice when you greet people.
  2. ʻuma faka-Tonga is how Tongans show affection
  3. mihi is how we really show affection for the people we love.
  4. mihi/ hongi is the breath of life
  5. When someone like grandma sniffs it is their way of sharing their mana and well wishes with you
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