31 Dec 2011

Friday drops out as Samoa moves across the dateline

5:12 am on 31 December 2011

Samoa is skipping Friday 30 January 2011 and going straight to Saturday 31 December as it shifts its time zone forward by 24 hours to align with New Zealand and Australia - its major trading partners.

The change happed at midnight on Thursday and was marked by a prayer service during the final hour before the Pacific nation moved across the international dateline from the eastern to the western side.

The special service was held on Mount Vaea overlooking the capital, Apia.

As the clock struck mdinight, bells around the nation rang out to mark the move.

Before the change, Samoa was 23 hours behind New Zealand and could boast of being the last country in the world to see the sun go down each day.

Chief executive of the country's tourism authority, Sonja Hunter, says it can no longer do that but will not be able to promote itself as the first place on Earth to the see in the new day.

With the switch made, Samoa will be one hour ahead of New Zealand summer time.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi says the move is common sense and he's heard only positive feedback about it.

The ABC reports that guests staying in Samoa's hotels this week will not be expected to pay for a day that does not exist, but employers must still pay staff for the Friday that never was.

It's not the first time Samoa has changed its date. In 1892, it moved east of the dateline, believing its American trade was more important than the links with Australia and New Zealand.

Tokelau is also following Samoa forward in time. It will join New Zealand and Australia's date on New Year's Eve.