Mar 012019

Today is Yap Day, a legal holiday in Yap State, one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). It is a celebration of traditional Yapese culture. In 1968, the Yap Islands Congress created Yap District Day to preserve Yapese culture. The date March 1 was chosen because it falls in the dry season and so is expected to be a pleasant day. The event’s name was changed to Yap Day in March 1979. In 1990, Yap Day activities included running, bicycling, juggling, tug of war, coconut husking, and basket weaving. Five dances were also held. Most of these activities and dances were aimed at preserving the culture of Yap proper.

In 1999, Yap Day was held as a three-day celebration starting on February 28. This was reportedly to accommodate the children’s school schedule, though it was also noted it also coincided with Yap’s tourist flight schedules. The opening ceremony was conducted almost entirely in Yapese. Different dances were held for the boys, girls, women, and men, including standing dances, sitting dances, and stick dances. Activities also included children’s cultural games such as target shooting and basket weaving. Booths around the dance arena represented the outer islands of Yap, and international organizations such as the Peace Corps. Other booths sold food.

Each year a different village hosts the Mit-mit (“meet meet” = gathering for dance) and provides both traditional and Western food. Before Yap Day, the villages rehearse traditional dances, which serve as a mode of storytelling. Outer islanders are prohibited from participating in dances, though they may attend. Competitions include traditional tattooing, fresh produce contests, and traditional games. The Yap Tradition Navigation Society holds an event where participants build and sail traditional canoes. On the last day, the Yap Visitors Bureau hosts a welcome reception to honor guests who have traveled to the island.

Coconut features prominently in traditional Yap food as does seafood and breadfruit. A common festival dish that can easily be replicated is taro in coconut milk. You do not really need a formal recipe. Scrub taro roots and boil them in salted water until completely cooked (1 ½ to 2 hours). Let cool and peel. Cube the taro and place in a saucepan. Barely cover with coconut milk and simmer until the coconut milk has reduced and thickened. Serve warm or cold.