Samoa to go back to the future with dateline shift
When the Vatican switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century, legend has it that riots broke out over the "lost 11 days" the shift caused.
Once the last beaches in the world to see the sunset, Samoa will be first place to see the sunrise from December 31.
However, on the Pacific island of Samoa - which plans to skip Friday this week when it switches to the west side of the international dateline -- the mood is more typically laid back and Polynesian.
"Sure, people are excited," government spokesman Uale Papalii was reported as saying to foreign media. "I myself am relaxed, (we are) only changing the calendar."
The decision to push the international dateline further to the east and go back to the future -- going directly from Thursday to Saturday -- was prompted by new economic realities rather than a need to be the first place in the world to celebrate New Year's Day in 2012.
Samoan prime minister, Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, said the move would put the Pacific island nation of some 180,000 people on the same footing as its key trading partners in New Zealand and Australia, taking advantage of those economies links to China and the Pacific Rim.
"In doing business with New Zealand and Australia we're losing out on two working days a week," he was quoted as saying in the English-language Samoa Observer. "While its Friday here, it's Saturday in New Zealand and when we're at church Sunday, they're already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane."
Currently, the archipelago is 21 hours behind Australia and 23 behind New Zealand, giving it just four working days a week that coincide with some of the Pacific Rim's largest economies. By moving the zig-zagging international dateline further to the east, Samoa will be just three hours ahead of eastern Australia and one hour ahead of New Zealand.
The international dateline -- which follows roughly 180 degrees longitude but takes diversions around islands and territories to prevent it dissecting nations internally - already creates serious anomalies for Samoa.
Its closest neighbor Tonga, little more than 800km to the south, is exactly 24 hours behind the island nation.
The move, however, has raised alarm in the tourism sector which markets Samoa as the last place on earth to see the sun set and has run into opposition.