Lotu Tamaiti - or White Sunday as it's commonly known - has become something of a mission, as families spend their morning racing from one service to another.

A trend has grown around the special October tradition, held yesterday, that sees families attend services at their relatives' churches as well as at their own.

"We had some people arriving late and others leaving early," said the Rev Iakopo Faafuata from the Auckland Samoan Church in Ponsonby.

"It can be difficult if services are running at the same time, but it's a beautiful, significant day."

It is a trend that only adds to the excitement of one of the most important dates on the Polynesian religious calendar.

Lotu Tamaiti, which means "Children's Sunday", is the one time of the year when the youngsters of the church host the ceremony, which includes singing, biblical drama, verse recital "and even rapping".

The Rev Faafuata said it was recognition that Jesus had a special place for children. Everyone dressed in white to symbolise a child's "purity of heart" - and giving the day its common name.

About 180 people packed the Ponsonby church. The Rev Faafuata said the children spent all year rehearsing and looking forward to the ceremony.

"They love it for many reasons as it shows them the church has a place for them. And, of course, it's the one day of the year that parents serve their children and they eat first. They certainly look forward to that."

Samoans make up the largest Pacific ethnic group, comprising 115,000 people, 50 per cent of New Zealand's Pacific population, at the last census in 2001.

The Samoan community makes up 7 per cent of the Auckland population.

White Sunday

* Samoans mark the day as a children's celebration in Christian churches.

* It is called Lotu Tamaiti in Samoan.

* Churches hold the celebration annually on the second Sunday of October.

* Participants wear white to signify purity.

* Children often lead the services with hymns and plays they have been rehearsing.

* It is a public holiday in Samoa.