|The Palolo Festival is another Samoan cultural event dating back to pre-missionary days. Seven days after the full moon in October and November, the coral reef releases Palolo (eggs and sperm). The green thread-like creatures are attracted to the moonlight and dance their way to the surface shortly after midnight. Leis are made with moso’oi flowers, and everyone anoints their bodies in fine coconut oils and wears their best lava lava. Everyone forms a circle out in the lagoon, beckoning the Palolo with flashlights and scooping them up with baskets freshly woven out of coconut fronds. Tisa recreates the Palolo Festival as it was done in ancient days, with a series of events leading up the harvest: canoe carving, tattooing, dancing, and (of course) Po Ula nights. After the harvest, the feast begins at dawn. The Palolo are the honored guests - that is, until just before they are eaten either with garlic and scrambled eggs or raw in the Samoan custom.
The Palolo Festival is held once a year, 7 days after the full moon in October. Palolo are tiny, threadlike coral larve released during high tide of the last quarter moon, usually just after midnight. They are attracted to the light of the moon, and disappear (they dissolve) a few hours later.
Samoan traditions for Palolo night include preparations to “greet” the Palolo. Canoes were carved to be used in the hunt, and participants would often have new tattoo work done to impress the Palolo. Moso’oi leaves were gathered for make ula’s (lei’s) to be worn during the hunt. Traditional scoops were made from a fresh salu (samoan broom), or sometimes using a scoop made from tightly woven leaves. Once everything was prepared, it was time for everyone to rub their bodies down with the finest coconut oils, and get into their finest lava lavas. The Palolo watch (people who wade out onto the reef early to watch for the first signs of Palolo) begins at 11:00. Once sighted, the hunters wade out onto the reef (about waist high) and form a large circle. Light is shined into the circle, and the Palolo are attracted to it. You scoop the Palolo out of the water, and drop it into your container.
Palolo can be eaten raw, in much the same way as caviar. This is especially the favored way to eat Palolo fresh, right after the catch. In fact, many hunters can’t wait and just eat them right out of the water. Another favorite Palolo recipe is to fry it with butter, garlic and onions, or cook it with scrambled eggs.
As a Tisa’s tradition, Palolo breakfast is served at 8:00am that morning, with a side of our all-time favorite fa’alifu fa’i (cooked bananas smothered in coconut cream sauce).
In modern days, Palolo are caught using a scoop made from cheese cloth or light screen, and we have lost some of the spirit of honoring the Palolo, but at Tisa’s we try to bring back some of the more traditional customs to create a true Palolo Festival which honors the tiny creature in all it’s glory.