Arrival Of The First Missionaries

The Arrival of the First Missionaries is a holiday that’s observed annually on March 5th in French Polynesia. This official holiday commemorates the arrival of the London Missionary Society (LMS) missionaries in 1797. Although the missionaries faced some rebellion from the local population, they were able to convert the local population successfully to Christianity.

Over the years, the missionaries also had to compete with Catholic priests who arrived later in the area. Even so, Protestantism continued to grow throughout the Polynesian Islands, and today, a large percentage of French Polynesia is Protestant. In honor of the first missionaries’ arrival, a monument was installed at Venus Point in the district of Mahina in Tahiti.

The History of the Arrival of the First Missionaries

On March 5, 1797, British Protestant missionaries from the LMS landed at Matavai Bay, in Mahina, Tahiti. They arrived on the ship “Duff” and went right to work trying to convert the local population from the polytheistic religion of the area to Protestantism.

Although they faced some setbacks, including a rebellion, they were able to convert the reigning King Pomare II to the religion. He converted to consolidate his power among the chiefs on the island. On May 16, 1819, the king was formally baptized, and the rest of Tahiti soon followed.

Observing the Arrival of the First Missionaries

On this day, parishes of the Maohi Protestant Church hold special worship services and organize various celebrations and events. This may include public concerts, cultural shows, or other events. There is also a reenactment of the arrival of the first missionaries at the Willy Bambridge Stadium Complex in Papeete, Tahiti.

Another reenactment takes place on Afareaitu, Moorea. On social media, the hashtags #ArrivalOfTheFirstMissionaries or simply #MissionaryDay are used to spread the word of this holiday outside of the islands.

Where is it celebrated?
French Polynesia (Public holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
March 5 Tuesday
Next year (2025)
March 5 Wednesday
Last year (2023)
March 5 Sunday