Every 4 June is Emancipation Day in Tonga to look back to the day in 1970 when the Tonga archipelago gained its independence from the British Empire.
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The 176 scattered islands of Tonga contain over 100,000 inhabitants, though only 52 islands are permanently inhabited. This group of islands and its people were first discovered by the Dutch back in 1616, but it was first bound together politically as a colony of Great Britain in 1900.
But the other basis for this 4 June holiday, and the source of its name “Emancipation” Day, occurred before colonial times. It was on 4 June, 1862, that the island of Vavau in present day Tonga abolished “serfdom”. This is much akin to the abolish of slavery in other parts of the world, and though it was just on one island, it was a very important island in the archipelago.
Emancipation Day also comes at the end of the three day long Haapai Festival in the Haapai Island Group, between Tongatapu and Vavau. Haapai is a very friendly, colourful, and captivating celebration, and Emancipation Day caps off the whole event with a fitting culmination.