Once the last spot in the world to see the sunset, Samoa will be the first place to see the sunrise from Dec. 31 as the tiny Pacific island nation skips this Friday and travels forward in time.
As Samoa's tourism board notes, we will lose one day in our lives as there will be no Friday 30th December 2011 in the history of Samoa.
At midnight on Thursday, Dec. 29, Samoa's calendar will leap ahead to Saturday Dec. 31 as it redraws the International Date Line to move to the western side after over a century on the east.
Partitioned by Germany and the United States in the late 19th century, Samoa and American Samoa will then be a day apart because, while Samoa plans to skip west of the north-south line that marks the spot where dates change, the tiny U.S. territory of American Samoa will remain to the east. This means that in less than an hour by air, you can jump back in time.
On Dec. 29th, a complete day will be wiped from the Samoan calendar as the country races 24 hours into the future. The shift opens up a myriad of opportunities for fact-throwing, time-traveling tourists.
You can have two birthdays or two wedding anniversaries on the same date without leaving the Samoan chain, Samoa's colorful and notoriously whimsical Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi suggested in May when the announcement was made.
In Samoa, the mood is predictably laid back as they prepare for the leap.
Sure, people are excited, government spokesman Uale Papalii reportedly told foreign media. I myself am relaxed, (we are) only changing the calendar.
The decision to go back to the future was prompted by new economic realities rather than a desire to be the first nation to celebrate New Year's Day in 2012.
Samoa hopes to boost the economy by bringing the nation's work week in line with close trading partners Australia and New Zealand, 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, Malielegaoi told the English-language Samoa Observer. While it's 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, Samoa is 21 hours behind Australia and 23 hours behind New Zealand, offering a limited number of working days each week that coincide with some of the Pacific Rim's largest economies. On Dec. 31, the archipelago will be just three hours ahead of eastern Australia and one hour ahead of New Zealand.
What is a Time Zone Anyway?
Technically, counting forward from the international meridian in Greenwich, England, every 15 degrees of longitude should equate to a change of one hour. This was the system used by sailors since the 1920s as nautical standard time, though political time zones appear wigglier in practice.
The International Date Line, which passes through the Pacific near the 180º meridian, is not set by an international treaty or organization and has long been a subject of debate.
This won't be the first time Samoa has crossed the date line. In 1892, the king of Samoa was persuaded to switch sides to fall in line with American ships sailing westward to San Francisco. That shift gave the Samoan calendar an extra day that had to be absorbed with two consecutive Fourth of Julys.
Opposition to the Move
Many in Samoa's tourism industry are unhappy with the change.
It's a crazy idea, Samoan resident Valentina Tufuga told the Samoa Observer. I think it will just be a major loss to the tourism sector who can no longer boast that Samoa is the last country in the world to see the sun.
Tourism officials argue that Samoa's new status as the first place to see the dawn is a less romantic selling point for beachside honeymooners.
Yet, Samoa is hardly the only destination to plug its proximity to the International Date Line. Tonga has called itself Where the Day Begins for decades and New Zealand, too, claims it's the first country to see the sun each day.
The decision is not sitting well with Samoa's 7,000 Seventh Day Adventists whose Sabbath incorporates Friday - a day that won't exist this week.
Many in the religious community say they will continue to observe the current seven-day cycle.
Samoa's done its share of switching sides in recent years. In 2009, Malielangaoi's government changed road rules to mandate driving on the left. Officials argued that expat Samoans in Australia and New Zealand could then send used cars home to their relatives.
That switch was also met with considerable disapproval. Samoans defaced road signs and denounced the move as a major hazard.
In 2010, Malielangaoi made another sudden announcement: Samoa would introduce daylight savings time.
Mata'afa Keni Lesa, editor of the Samoa Observer, said Samoans are increasingly concerned about whatever may emerge from Malielangaoi's next brilliant idea.
Since he is capable of changing our constitution on any day of the week, Lesa said, we fear the day when we're all going to wake up in a snowy country somewhere close to Russia.