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Back to the future: Samoa skips Dec. 30

The South Pacific nation of Samoa is “taking time by the fetlock,” as a character in Little Women used to say.

Located about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand and a mere 20 miles from the international dateline – the imaginary, highly arbitrary boundary that designates where each calendar day begins – Samoa is skipping Friday, Dec. 30 as it moves west of the dateline to facilitate business dealings with Australia and New Zealand.

But, notes CNN, the move has encountered some pushback from the tourism industry, which has pitched Samoa as the last place on earth to see the sun set.

“It’s a crazy idea. I see no reasoning behind a time change,” Samoan resident Valentina Tufuga told the Samoa Observer. “For years we have been trading well with Australia and New Zealand despite the time difference. I think it will be a major loss to the tourism sector.”

While the switch means Samoa gains a new status as the first place on the planet to see the dawn, the tourist industry “has judged this to be a less romantic and lucrative option for beachside honeymooners,” CNN adds. Another potential plus: since American Samoa is only an hour away by plane but on the other side of the dateline, tourists could conceivably celebrate birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and other auspicious events twice.

To which I say: Good luck with that.

For starters, Samoa isn’t the only destination to plug its proximity to the international dateline. Tonga, which has called itself “Where the Day Begins” for decades, had great hopes of becoming, in author Calvin Trillin’s words, a “saltwater Times Square” on New Year’s Eve, 1999. (It didn’t.) New Zealand, too, claims it is “the first country to see the sun each day” – and reassures tourists that while they’ll lose a day on the way over, they’ll gain it back on the return trip.

I’ve always approached crossing the international dateline with mix of wonder and confusion – but have marked enough birthdays to know that I wouldn’t want to fly halfway around the world to celebrate one twice.

Readers, how about you?

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