Samoa and Tokelau cross date line
Sirens wailed and fireworks exploded in the skies over Samoa as the tiny South Pacific nation jumped forward in time, crossing westward over the international date line and effectively erasing Friday, December 30, 2011, from the country's calendar.
Samoans who had gathered around the main clock tower in the capital Apia cheered and clapped as the clock struck midnight on Thursday, December 29, instantly transporting the country 24 hours ahead to Saturday, December 31.
The switch, also being observed by neighbouring Tokelau, is meant to align the islands' time with key trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region.
The time jump means that Samoa's 186,000 citizens, and the 1,500 in the three-atoll United Nations dependency of Tokelau, will now be the first in the world to ring in the new year, rather than the last.
The moment was greeted with celebrations across Samoa. Fireworks danced across the sky and police, ambulance and fire truck sirens wailed throughout Apia to signal the change. Drivers circled the clock tower blaring their horns, and prayer services were held across the country.
The date line dance comes 119 years after a group of US traders persuaded local Samoan authorities to align their islands' time with nearby US-controlled American Samoa and the US to assist their trading with California.
However the time zone has proved problematic in recent years, putting Samoa and Tokelau nearly a full day behind neighbouring Australia and New Zealand, increasingly important trading partners.
In June, the Samoan government passed a law to move Samoa west of the international date line. Under a government decree, all those scheduled to work on the non-existent Friday will be given full pay for the missed day of work.
In addition to the economic advantages, the time jump is also expected to make the everyday rituals of family life a little more pleasant. Like many small Pacific island states, more of Samoa's people live permanently in other countries than on its islands, with around 180,000 Samoans living in New Zealand and 15,000 in Australia.
The date line switch means that families split between the island nation and Australia or New Zealand can now celebrate important events such as birthdays at the same time.