Indonesia is a bright, vast and colorful country that, with its 18,000 islands, resembles an incredibly motley blanket woven from pieces.
It brings together just a very large number of representatives of different nationalities and religions, perfectly coexisting, contrary to the history of the Middle Ages, with each other. There is something striking in this peaceful neighborhood of Muslims and Christians. Especially when you add to it the supporters of Buddhism. Such an original mixture is reflected in the organization of holidays: the state combined with religious, and there are three religions! So that there are enough outstanding events in Indonesia every year.
As in many other countries, there are specific festivals and celebrations of important events in different cities and different islands. Among the famous tourists remember Java and Bali, Sumatra and Komodo. But the islands of Indonesia, of course, does not end there.
Christmas and New Year in Indonesia
Catholic Christmas in Indonesia is celebrated with an unusual sweep. In fact, one holiday from December 25 to another (New Year’s Eve), and then lasts for about two weeks. Tourists love this time: you can buy a huge number of souvenirs, get into sales, take part in impressive street parades… Or at least just to watch them.
In general, it’s hard to say how much the locals perceive the concept of Christmas, but they celebrate it very cheerfully and violently. On New Year’s Eve is also very fun and very noisy. Tourists in hotels often congratulate the local dances and songs, it all looks colorful, although not everyone immediately understands what is happening. However, vacationers often admit that the New Year’s holidays, as well as Christmas vacations here feel like something very special. Everything around is green, quite warm, palm trees, and a sea of flowers. They begin to decorate tourists with them right at the airport, which sometimes throws them into a frank confusion. It is not always clear where from, but in Indonesia the large hotels get big pine trees and set up in the lobby.
Unlike other Asian countries, there are not many fireworks on New Year’s Eve, but it is very crowded. It’s funny that those who have been to Thailand or Japan before, notice that the residents of these Asian countries often come to Bali, a little less often – in Sumatra and Java to rest on their own. And it is during this period, because the beginning of January is not very popular among those who like to swim and sunbathe. At this time there gradually begins a period of rain, lasting from February to March, which means a small number of tourists and lower prices. As a result, the idea of spending New Year’s Eve here becomes more and more attractive.
Continuing the theme of New Year celebrations, it is impossible not to say that the locals have their own New Year. It is celebrated almost everywhere in Indonesia, but it is on the island of Bali in particular. It is Niyepi, or the day of silence. Apparently, in contrast to normal everyday life, everything seems to die out. Loud music is forbidden, locals even talk quietly, airports stop working except for emergencies, all offices and government offices are closed. In the evening there are no lights on, many people even try not to go outside.
According to tourists’ reviews, it makes a very strong impression. You don’t immediately understand what is happening if you don’t know in advance. In some cases, unprepared people were frightened to search the Internet for information about some public disaster, news, and then, learning the truth, nervously laughed. But in general, this approach to the holiday is very unusual and stands out sharply from all the others. Indonesia is resting in the full sense of the word.
Nyepi comes just after the day of the vernal equinox and symbolizes the beginning of a new era in a special local calendar, which dates from 78 AD, by the way! There’s a lot to be surprised about… But that’s not the only thing that makes Nyepi noteworthy. For example, the day before the holiday on the island of Bali there is a bright, remarkable event – the parade of wow-wow. Indonesians believe that the brighter the event, the calmer the spirits will be and the safer it will be in terms of protection from demons in the coming year. So they carry huge, colorful monster figurines the size of three people through the streets. The brightly colored statues look very impressive: wild grinning faces with fangs and claws that would make you dream in a nightmare. However, they’re all painted in bright colors and hues-red and blue-that make everything look almost paradoxically colorful and festive.
But the Indonesians are not limited to the statue parade alone, of course. As in many other countries of the world, the change of the year here is associated with a large number of rituals accompanying this process. Hindu believers prepare gifts in advance, and then happily share them with all who wish. Usually among the latter there are quite a lot of children, because they like the atmosphere. And the opportunity to get something for nothing amuses the little ones, too.
But if you think that’s all, you’re wrong. Indonesians take their New Year’s Eve very seriously. For example, they put on a fire show: a huge number of dancing, spitting fire, showing their ability to create unusual figures… It looks very colorful against the background of giant figures of demons.
Also in anticipation of the date change is Omed-Omedan, which is also known as the kissing festival. On a large, beautifully decorated square, couples in love gather and kiss, it is believed that this will bring them happiness and good luck in the coming year. No, of course, that’s not all! The task of the surrounding people is to catch such a couple and throw water on them. Also out of a desire to attract all the good, as well as to help wash away all the bad. Something like a similar tradition in Thailand – Songkran is also associated with dousing.
And then comes the Day of Silence. The inhabitants are immersed in tranquility, meditating and resting. There is a legend about where this custom came from… About evil spirits who decided to look for people and arrange something bad for them, of course. The spirits were evil! They ended up flying out to look for as much of the population as possible, and the clever Balinese and other islanders lurked so no one would notice them, decided not to show any signs of life, and eventually the spirits flew by! Another version is the need to rethink their lives. In general, one does not contradict the other, if you think about it.
But if we move away from such loud and large-scale celebrations, we can think of one rite that traditionally makes a strong impression. It is the Feast of the Full Moon … and it is held on one or the other island every full moon in good enough weather, that is, out of the rainy season.
Locals in white clothing gather in the open air and pray (mostly Buddhists), ringing bells and singing local long songs. Water is splashed on everyone to bless them. Everything is in flowers, everything is fragrant, everyone prays together, and multi-colored lanyards are tied around the wrist. It is said to be a reminder that you have been here, asked your gods for something… Smoke is burnt for good luck. Fruit and wicker baskets with boiled rice are handed out: it is believed that a person who eats it will not get sick. In general, this event is quite popular: a lot of people come to the festival, everything is busy.
It is a very unusual event, it is closely associated with the veneration of the spirits of ancestors, but at the same time, it is devoid of solemnity. It is somehow cheerful and somewhat reminiscent of Halloween: children in scary outfits with fang masks walk from house to house, and adults give them money and sometimes treat them to play and sing for them. Then the procession goes to the next house. It is believed that such a donation helps to honor the ancestors, that is, not opening the door, for example, is very impolite. Therefore, children are welcome everywhere.
It is noteworthy that Galungan takes place necessarily on Wednesday – every 210 days. That is, in some years it will be held twice, and sometimes – once. And its date, accordingly, is constantly changing.
Held for the second year in a row in Penang, Indonesia. It is a balloon festival, which took place on March 21, and quite equally in the morning, when it is still cool. So to get there, you have to get up as early as possible, preferably at 5 am. And if you want to be one of those who will take off, and a limited number of people can take off, in 2016 there were no more than 180, then you need to get there early. The rest of us will just have to watch!
Whether or not you get to go hot air ballooning, though, depends a lot on the weather. You may or may not be lucky, the weather can be pretty changeable. But in general the holiday itself lasts all day, the balloons are sometimes inflated, sometimes deflated, sold also souvenirs in large quantities – rare photos taken with balloons and not only. The most interesting thing happens in the evening: they arrange a ceremony of balloons and lights, when everything under the music is lit by fire. There is also a laser show, it all looks very beautiful.
Tourists separately are also offered small balloons, miniature copies of huge balloons, but most of all resembling Chinese lanterns. Some can even make the balloons rise by lighting a candle pill, so that the lantern will dangle and light up the sky. It is possible to make a wish. In general, the festival promises to be in a few years a very bright and memorable event, especially as it is organized by balloonists from China, that is, those who are well versed in the device here is the holidays and will take into account all the mistakes and flaws, if any, for example.
The festival on Sentani Island is among the traditional ones. This is a great way to introduce tourists to the culture of the tribes that inhabit the easternmost province of Indonesia. In general, there are not many resort areas, quite far from civilization, so it is interesting to look at it all. The event takes place from June 19 to 23, and there are a lot of participants.
During the festival there are various theatrical shows and processions, which in Indonesia it is difficult to surprise anyone, but in this case they differ in their coloring and filling. There are also plenty of exhibitions, dance competitions between different teams, as well as just shows again. And separately – culinary performances, taking place almost on the verge of art. At the center of the festival is a very unusual dance “isilo,” performed by actors right in the boats. That is, they stand and constantly balance during the dance, but do not let each other to turn over. It all looks very colorful, especially the part of the event that takes place at night. Right during the events, there are boat races involving women’s and men’s teams.
Recently, there are also specialized fairs, so you can buy unusual handmade clothing, utensils, or some very rare souvenirs. In general, bring back memories of your time here.
And, of course, a huge space is occupied by endless food tents. It’s just a separate field with rows along which you can walk to infinity. For example, they serve calamari fried in batter. Or just in a huge amount of oil, very tasty, but, of course, bad for the figure. There are some kind of meat balls: pastry with stuffing, also fried, also tasty and calorie-dense. Everywhere you find traditional Indonesian food, at least the kind that tourists quickly become accustomed to seeing on the streets: fried noodles and rice. Additions can be all kinds: vegetables, mushrooms, herbs, tofu, chicken, pork, and so on. Although chicken and beef are much less common than, say, chicken. In short, it is simply unreal to leave the festival hungry.
Holidays in Indonesia
Indonesia is one of the most vibrant and colorful countries, where on nearly 18 thousand islands live peacefully with representatives of different religions and ethnicities. Indonesia has interesting traditions of holidays and festivals, typical for different cities and islands, but there are also those that unite all residents.
All the holidays of the country can be divided into 4 groups:
- festivals and others.
Public holidays in Indonesia
They are officially days off for all residents. They include:
- January 1 – New Year. It is a favorite holiday of the local population and visiting tourists and the longest holiday in Indonesia (it is celebrated for almost 2 weeks), very bright and colorful. In large hotels and airports they install and decorate Christmas trees, hang garlands. There are massive sales in shopping malls, festivities, discos, concerts and fire shows in open areas, entertainment events in cafes and restaurants. In Bali, during the New Year the locals build large two-meter columns of painted rice, which are eaten after the holiday is over. Indonesia doesn’t have many fireworks on New Year’s Eve compared to neighboring Asian countries, but the streets are always crowded and the locals party in style.
- August 17 is Indonesia’s Independence Day. One of the most important holidays and at the same time a weekend in the country. Preparations for it begin in advance, attaching wherever possible the red and white decorations symbolizing the flag of Indonesia. On the streets there is perfect order, hung beautiful garlands. The holiday begins with the raising of the national flag in the presence of the head of state, followed by mass festivities, processions and parades on the streets. In addition, on Independence Day there are fireworks and entertainment (for example, on top of a pole covered with clay and oil there are presents and surprises hanging for those who can climb to the top).
- December 25 – Catholic Christmas. It is celebrated in Indonesia for several days and flows seamlessly into the New Year. During this time there are a lot of entertainment programs, large-scale street parades, festivities. In the stores you can buy a huge number of souvenirs, visit sales, participate in competitions, taste delicious treats of national Indonesian cuisine.
National Holidays Indonesia
These days in the country are working days, but the scope of the festivities in no way inferior to the national holidays. National holidays include:
- April 21 is Kartini Day. It is named after the national heroine of the country, Raden Ajeng Kartini, the founder of the feminist movement in Indonesia, who fought for equal rights for women and men, for the abolition of polygamy and for women’s right to education. In fact, Kartini Day is Women’s Day in Indonesia. It is especially celebrated on a large scale in the women’s educational institutions that Raden fought to create more than 100 years ago. During the celebration, ladies wear traditional Javanese attire, Kebaya. On Kartini Day, there are exhibitions, seminars, and themed contests in Indonesia.
- October 1 is Panchasila Protection Day (or Holiness Day). It is a holiday to commemorate the coup d’état in Indonesia.
- October 5 is Armed Forces Day. A holiday to commemorate the formation of the national army in the country.
- October 28 is Youth Pledge Day and November 10 is Heroes’ Day. They are also worthy of attention, although the scale of celebrations on these days is much smaller.
A fairly large number of holidays belong to this group, because the locals in Indonesia practice 3 religions at the same time – Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. The dates of religious holidays change every year, because they are determined by the lunar calendars of Hijra (Muslim) and Shaka (Hindu-Buddhist holidays). The most important in the religious life of the local population is considered to be:
- Ramadan (Buluan Puasa) – celebrated usually in January-February. This is a holy Muslim holiday, in the days of which the strictest fast is observed (even smoking is forbidden), and the working day is shortened. Muslim tourists are subject to all prohibitions, and everyone else should respect the local traditions, dress modestly and behave quietly. Ramadan is celebrated for a whole month, the dates varying each year.
- The Day of Silence (Nyepi) and the Day of Remembrance of the Death of Prophet Isa are held in March and April. Nyepi Day of Silence fully justifies its name. During this time, the Indonesian islands are silent and people do not work or entertain themselves. Airports and roads are closed (only ambulances, police and fire department work), tourists are asked not to leave the hotel and not to swim in the ocean. Locals on Nyepi day do not go out of the house, do not light a fire and spend the day in silence and quiet, meditating and thus chasing away evil spirits from the island.
- Muslim New Year (Muharram) – usually falls in April and May. It is a time of fasting, good deeds and increased prayer. Believers fast, attend services and listen to sermons about the Prophet Mohammed, and wealthy citizens help the poor by giving alms and food. Muharram is also believed to be an excellent time for weddings, big purchases, reconciliation and the ending of quarrels and disputes. There are festive festivities in the streets of the cities, in which everyone can take part.
- Ascension of Isa and Idul Adha, both celebrated in April and May. During the Muslim festival of Idul Adha there is a sacrifice and distribution of meat to the poor inhabitants. The carcasses of animals are bought the day before, consecrated in the mosques, and then the food is prepared from them.
- Buddha’s Birthday (Vesak) – celebrated in May. It is a special day for Buddhists in Indonesia, during which they pray, meditate, visit sacred places, and distribute food and alms to the needy. The main place of pilgrimage in Vesak is the stupa and temple complex Borobudur. At exactly midnight, the climax of the festivities with the lighting of candles and the launching of paper lanterns into the sky takes place here.
- The birthday of the Prophet Mohammed – celebrated in July. On this day, believers read the Koran, recite poems and prayers, and perform chants.
- Isra Miraj Nabi Mohammed (Ascension of Prophet Mohammed) – celebrated in December.
Festivals and other holidays in Indonesia
The following events belong to this group:
- Full Moon Festival. Held on different islands on full moon days and only in good weather (not during the rainy season). On this day, people come to the temples wearing snow-white clothes, and they tie multicolored laces on their wrists. They ring bells, sing long songs, Buddhists pray, and smoke is incensed. Everyone is sprinkled with water as a sign of blessing, handed out fruit and wicker baskets of boiled rice.
- The holiday of Pon in Indonesia. Its name is translated as “the night of adultery”. The festival of Pon takes place 7 times a year on a sacred mountain on the island of Java. According to the local traditions, those who want to find happiness and good luck should coitulate 7 times with the same partner who is not a relative, and with whom they didn’t know before. Couples as well as singles can participate in the event.
- Galungan and the Festival of Ancestors. The holiday is associated with the worship of spirits and looks similar to Halloween. Children in masks go door to door, play and sing songs, for which they receive treats and monetary rewards. The donation symbolizes remembrance of the ancestors. Galungan takes place every 210 days and only on Wednesdays.
- The Festival of the Dead in Indonesia (otherwise known as the Manene Festival). A rather peculiar ritual exists among the Toraja people of the island of Sulawesi. The fact is that the funeral here is a very expensive event, and for it they save up for several months or even years. Therefore, often the dead simply lie in specially designated places and wait to be buried. During the ritual, the toraji take out the mummies of dead relatives and dry them, and then dress them in new clothes. At the beginning of the funeral, an ox or a buffalo is slaughtered and then its horns are used to decorate the entrance to the house. At the end of the ritual, the bodies are placed in a cave in the rock.
- The Festival of Kisses. It is also called Omed-Omedan. It consists of a gathering in a large, beautifully decorated square of couples in love, who kiss, calling for their happiness and good luck in the coming year, and the people around them try to find them and pour water on them.
- Balloon Festival. Held in the early morning in Penang. To become a part of a balloon flight, you should go to the festival at dawn. In the evening at the festival you can see the fire and laser show.
- Sentani Island Festival. A traditional festival introducing tourists to the culture of the eastern provinces of Indonesia. Held in mid-June. During the festival you can watch theatrical shows and processions, exhibitions and competitions, culinary duels and “isilo” dances which are performed in boats. There is also a handicraft fair and team boat races.