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This week, Samoa will skip Friday

Rachel Maddow reports on a peculiar switch in the calendar for Samoa as they move to the other side of the International Date Line and lose a Friday in order to be better aligned with their trading partners.

Just this once, Samoa is making Dec. 30 disappear.

It's the key step in the Pacific island nation's plan to move from the eastern to the western side of the International Date Line and mesh its work week with two of its primary trading partners, New Zealand and Australia. The New Zealand territory of Tokelau is making the switch as well.


"In doing business with New Zealand and Australia, we're losing out on two working days a week," Stuff.co.nz quoted Samoan Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele as saying. "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."

Samoa will go directly from 11:59 p.m. Thursday, through midnight to 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

"It hasn't been controversial," the editor of the Samoa Observer, Mata'afa Lesa, told me today. (Yes, definitely still today.) "People are realizing when they sleep tomorrow night, they'll wake up on Saturday."

Hotel guests won't have to pay for an extra night, but employers will be required to pay workers for Friday. "For the business community, it's very difficult," Lesa said, "They'll be paying for a day that doesn't exist."

As for folks born on Dec. 30 ... well, this year they're in the same boat as Feb. 29 birthday babies.

MSNBC

Samoa is on the eastern side of the International Date Line ... until Thursday night.

American Samoa, 100 miles to the east, will not be making the switch. All this means that Samoa and Tokelau will be among the first places in the world to see each day's sunrise. (Stuff.co.nz says the "first light honors" will belong to Fakaofo in Tokelau, although Kiribati and Antarctica also have claims on the title.) Meanwhile, American Samoa will become known as the last place to see each day's sunset. And if you want to celebrate your birthday or anniversary (or New Year's Eve, for that matter) two days in a row, you can just make the hourlong flight from Samoa to American Samoa.

This isn't the first step taken by the Samoan government to bring itself more in line with its bigger Pacific neighbors. Two years ago, drivers were ordered to switch from right-side to left-side driving — to reduce the cost of converting cars brought in from Australia and New Zealand.

It's also not the first time Samoa has switched sides on the calendar: Back in 1892, Samoans gained an extra day when they went from the west side of the imaginary Date Line to the east side. The king made the switch to please U.S. traders — and to celebrate, he gave his subjects a double dose of the Fourth of July that year.

NBC's Lester Holt reports on Samoa's date shift for "Nightly News."

Update for 10:45 p.m. ET: Some of the comments suggest there's been a bit of confusion over how many Fridays will be dropped from the calendar because of Samoa's shift from one side of the International Date Line to the other. It's just one. I've rewritten the headline to make that clearer.

More calendar considerations:


Alan Boyle is msnbc.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.