December 24, 2010

Yap Constitution Day—Micronesia

Micronesia is the name given to a group of thousands of small islands in the Pacific Ocean. Nearby are the many islands of Melanesia, Polynesia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Many of these islands make up the sovereign nation of the Federated States of Micronesia. One of the country's four states is Yap, which celebrates the writing of its constitution on this day.

One of the things Yap is notable for is its stone money or Rai stones. These disks of calcite are pretty big, as money goes. They wouldn't fit in the average man's wallet or the average woman's purse. That's because they are up to 12 FEET (4 meters) in diameter!!!

The value of the Rai stones depends on their size and their history (most stones were brought from other islands many, many years ago). The least valuable are only around 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter.

Still, a foot-wide disk of stone is not a convenient coin to jingle in one's pocket!

Most of the time, these stones are not moved when ownership changes. People just know who each of the 6,500 stones belong to!

Of course, nowadays the people of Yap use Western-style money. As a matter of fact, they use actual Western currency: the Federated States of Micronesia use U.S. dollars as its official currency! Still, the Rai stones are used in traditional and ceremonial exchanges and are seen as national symbols.

Also on this day—Christmas Eve!

  • For the past few years, Google has teamed up with NORAD to “track Santa” as he makes his way around the globe on this special night. Intrigued? Check it out here or here.
  • The Feast of the Seven Fishes, also called The Vigil, is a Christmas Even custom that originated in southern Italy and is now pretty much kept alive by some Italian American communities. The common custom of getting together with family for a huge holiday meal has the twist that the meal is a combination of anchovies, sardines, dried salt cod, smelts, eels, squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels, and clams, alone with pastas and vegetables. Yummers...

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