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Holidays in Indonesia

HOLIDAYS IN INDONESIA

  • There are four types of holidays in Indonesia: religious, national, international and commemorative. Ones that are designated tanggal merah (literally red date, or a date that is designated in red on a calendar) signify national holidays when government offices, schools, banks, and most businesses are closed. Many of the dates of religious holidays vary from year to year, as they are based on other calendars. For example, the Muslim holidays are based on the Islamic or Hijriah calendar, which is 10 to 11 days shorter than the Roman calendar every year. Other holidays, such as Easter, Chinese New Year and Waisak are based on lunar calculations, as in other countries where these holidays are celebrated. There are 13 national holidays proclaimed by the government. The government also declares that collective leave should be taken on some days, usually a Monday or Friday, before or after a national holiday in order to create a long weekend. This policy is intended to promote domestic tourism.
  • The Indonesian government officially recognizes six religions: Islam, Protestant, Catholic, Buddhism, Confucianism and Hindu. As in other countries, each of these religious communities in Indonesia celebrate events that are important to their faith. Some of these are national holidays, others are not. National calendars list Muslim and Christian holidays as well as Hindu-Buddhist ones. In many places, people of one religion may acknowledge the holidays of another religion with visits or gifts. In Makassar, for example, the same decorative lights are left up for celebrating both Idul Fitri and Christmas. The Ministry of Religion decides the dates on which religious holidays will be held each year.
  • National Public Holidays: Religious holidays (celebrated by followers of that faith): include Imlek (Chinese or Lunar New Year, movable date in January or February); Eid’l Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim, movable date); Hari Raya Nyepi (Balinese Hindu New Year, movable date in March or April); Hijriyah (Islamic New Year, first day of Muharram, first month of the Islamic calendar, variable date); Good Friday (movable date in March or April); Maulid (Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, movable date); Waisak (Buddha’s Birthday, movable date in May or June); Ascension of Christ (movable date in May or June); Isra Miraj Nabi Muhammad (Night Journey and Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad, movable date); Eid’l Fitri (end of the month of Ramadan, variable cluster of two days, often late in the year); and Christmas (December 25).
  • Other days commemorated include: New Year’s Day, January 1; National Education Day, May 2; National Awakening Day, May 20; National Children’s Day, July 23; Independence Day, August 17; National Sports Day, September 8; Armed Forces Day, October 5; Youth Pledge Day, October 28; Heroes’ Day, November 10; and Women’s Day, December 22.
  • Christian holidays fall on the same days as in other countries. The following are national holidays: 1) Wafat Isa Almasih – Good Friday – Commemorates the death of Jesus. 2) Hari Paskah – Easter – Celebrates the day Jesus arose from the dead. 3) Kenaikan Isa Almasih – Ascension of Christ- Commemorates the day Jesus ascended into Heaven. 4) Hari Natal – Christmas – Celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.

Festivals and Cultural Events

  • The large variety of different cultures and traditions throughout the country is also expressed in numerous exciting and interesting events, both religious and popular, that are held throughout the year. Among these are the colourful religious Hindu Dharma ceremonies held continuously on Bali, the court processions during Sekaten in Yogyakarta, Java, preceding the birth date of the Prophet Mohammad, as well as the Tabot Festival in Bengkulu, Sumatra, a ceremony commemorating the role of Prophet Muhammad’s grandchildren, Hasan and Husein in spreading the faith. The Buddhist Vaisak Ceremonies are held yearly around Borobudur, as is the Chinese Toa Peh Kong festival in Manado, while the Feasts to the Dead are held in Toraja, both latter on the island of Sulawesi, and the Kasada ceremony is held annually at the end of the year on Mt. Bromo in East Java, the appease the ancestors and the mountain gods.
  •  Then there are the exciting simulated tribal wars in the Wamena valley of Papua, the bull races on the island of Madura held as thanksgiving after the harvest, as well as the “nyale” festival in Lombok, to collect the sea worms that appear here each February only, and many more events on all islands. And to top it off is the event of complete silence called “nyepi” in Bali, the day of meditation for the entire island, when all lights, fires, sounds, including planes and cars are barred for 24 hours! The Balinese have mooted that “nyepi” becomes an international tradition that will greatly reduce pollution and global warming.

See : Festivals & Events

Rituals and Holy Places

  • According to everyculture.com: Mosques and churches have the same features found elsewhere in the world, but the temples of Bali are very special. While centers for spiritual communication with Hindu deities, they also control the flow of water to Bali’s complex irrigation system through their ritual calendar. Major Muslim annual rituals are Ramadan (the month of fasting), Idul Fitri (the end of fasting), and the hajj (pilgrimage). Indonesia annually provides the greatest number of pilgrims to Mecca. Smaller pilgrimages in Indonesia may also be made to graves of saints, those believed to have brought Islam to Indonesia, Sunan Kalijaga being the most famous. 
  • “Rituals of traditional belief systems mark life-cycle events or involve propitiation for particular occasions and are led by shamans, spirit mediums, or prayer masters (male or female). Even in Muslim and Christian areas, some people may conduct rituals at birth or death that are of a traditional nature, honor and feed spirits of places or graves of ancestors, or use practitioners for sorcery or countermagic. The debate over what is or is not allowable custom by followers of religion is frequent in Indonesia. Among the Sa’dan Toraja of Sulawesi, elaborate sacrifice of buffalos at funerals has become part of the international tourist circuit, and the conversion of local custom to tourist attractions can be seen in other parts of Indonesia, such as on Bali or Samosir Island in North Sumatra.” 
  •  A selematan is neighborhood feast that often accompanies important Muslim holidays or big life-cycle events such as boy’s circumcision or the cutting of a child’s hair for the first time. The main fish is often a cone of rice filled with shredded sweet beef, baked chicken, hard-boiled eggs and chilies. The purpose of a selematan is to achieve slamet, a state of calmness and serenity. The events are associated with more with abangan (nominal Muslim believers) than santri (zealots).

Strange Rituals in Indonesia

  • Goats, chickens and bulls are ritually killed and their heads are buried with prayers when major building projects are started. Priests with a bull’s head have been helicoptered to offshore oil platforms to perform rituals there to bring good luck, harmony, power and blessings to the project. 
  • In a ritual similar to firewalking some Chinese wash their hands in bronze vessels filled with boiling oil. Even after holding their hands in the oil for several seconds they pull their hands out unscathed.
  • Trance dancers on the Watubella Islands in the Moluccas, possessed the soul of a monkey, have been observed sewing up one another’s lips and rubbing themselves with hot coals without bleeding or burning. They also pierce their arms and cheeks with swords, eat glass and have huge boulders thrown on their backs without suffering ill effects. During the ritual of the “dancing bamboos” on Sulawesi, dancers fall unconscious while their swords continue to fight. 
  • In Cerman and Borneo that are shaman that specialize possessions of specific animal spirits. If a persons is possessed by the soul of a crocodile a crocodile shaman is called in to exorcize the demon. Men possessed by monkeys, pigs and horses in other parts of Indonesia have been observed eating hay and raw offal. There are people with animal power who can sit alone in the forest and make wild animals come to them.

Muslim Holidays in Indonesia

  • The dates for many Muslim holidays vary from year to year as they are based on the Islamic or Hijriah calendar, which is 10 to 11 days shorter than the Roman calendar. Satu Muharam or Tahun Baru Hijrah— Muslim New Year — is the 1st day of Muharam. It marks the beginning of the new year on the Hijrah calendar.
  • Maulid Nabi — Birth of the Prophet Mohammad — is held on 12th day of Rabiul Awal. The month of Rabi’ al-Awwal (the First Spring Season) of the Islamic Calendar is well known in the entire Muslim world as Shahr al-Mawhid (the Month of Birth) of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet Muhammad was born in the Arabian city of Mecca on the 12th day of Rabi-ul-Awwal or the third month of the Muslim lunar year. In Indonesia, Muslims gather to recite special prayers of thanksgiving to Allah for sending the Prophet Muhammad as His messenger. Speeches and lectures are made in mosques and elsewhere about the life and instructions of the Holy Prophet. After prayers, sweets are distributed and perfume may be sprinkled on adherents. It is also a family occasion; people dress up in their best clothing and children receive money or gifts. In some cities in Indonesia, such as Yogyakarta and Solo (Surakarta), believers celebrate the Maulid by conducting parades or carnivals, reciting special prayers and singing holy songs which they called ‘Barzanzi’. The tradition is called the ‘Mauludan Festival’. During the festival there are competitions to win food, which the people believe has been blessed by the Prophet.
  • Isra Miraj – Ascension of the Prophet Mohammad – 27th day of the 7th month commemorates the ascension of the Prophet Mohammad to Heaven. Prayers are held at neighborhood mosques.
  • Hari Raya Idul Fitri or Lebaran – End of the Ramadan fasting month – is held 1 Syawal. The end of the month of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. Mass prayers are held in mosques and large open Praying in the Mosqueareas around the country. Celebrated with the traditional dish ketupat and visiting with family and friends. Charity donations (amal) are traditionally given at this time. Just prior to Lebaran a mass exodus (mudik) from Jakarta of over 3 million people occurs as residents return to their villages to celebrate with family and friends. Begging of forgiveness for any transgressions or slights in the past year is expressed during visits, Mohon Maaf Lahir dan Batin. A Lebaran bonus, THR, is traditionally given to all Muslim staff or employees prior to the holidays. In urban areas halal-bihalal (mutual begging of pardon) gatherings are held. This is the time of year when Muslims traditionally buy new clothes.
  • Idul Adha or Lebaran Haji – Muslim Day of Sacrifice – 10th day of Dzulhijjah commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son upon God’s command. Falls at the end of the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Mass prayers are held in mosques and large open areas around the country. Animals are sacrificed and the meat is given to the poor.
  • In Cerman and Borneo that are shaman that specialize possessions of specific animal spirits. If a persons is possessed by the soul of a crocodile a crocodile shaman is called in to exorcize the demon. Men possessed by monkeys, pigs and horses in other parts of Indonesia have been observed eating hay and raw offal. There are people with animal power who can sit alone in the forest and make wild animals come to them.

Hindu Holidays in Indonesia

  • Hari Raya Galungan – Galungan– celebrates the coming of the Gods and the ancestral spirits to earth to dwell again in the homes of the descendants. The festivities are characterized by offerings, dances and new clothes.
  • Hari Raya Nyepi – Nyepi–is the Hindu Day of Silence or the Hindu New Year in the Balinese Saka calendar. The largest celebrations are held in Bali as well as in Balinese Hindu communities around Indonesia. On New Year’s Eve the villages are cleaned, food is cooked for two days and in the evening as much noise is made as possible to scare away the devils. On the following day, Hindus do not leave their homes, cook or engage in any activity. Streets are deserted, and tourists are not allowed to leave hotel complexes.
  • Nyepi is the most important Balinese holiday. It is calculated according to the Çaka lunar calendar and falls at the time of the new moon in the months of March or April each year. The coming year will be 1932. The name Nyepi comes from the root word “sepi” meaning quiet or silent. Although it is a national holiday enjoyed by Indonesian residents throughout the country, Nyepi is celebrated in particular on the island of Bali where the majority of the 3.5 million inhabitants follow the Hindu religion, as well as in Balinese Hindu communities around Indonesia.
  • The broadcast facilities in Bali are also shut down for 24 hours from sunrise on Nyepi as a sign of respect for the beliefs of the Balinese people during the 24 hours of absolute silence. If you are in Bali in the days prior to Nyepi, you’ll notice a lot of Melasti ceremonies at the beach, enjoy the processions and he noices on Nyepi eve, and a very quiet day stuck in your hotel or home on the actual Day of Silence. One fun aspect of Nyepi, is the omed-omedan Kissing Celebration that follows Nyepi, held by the the people living in Banjar Kaja Sesetan in South Denpasar.

Buddhist Holidays in Indonesia

  • Hari Waisak in May commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha. This celebration is enlivened by religious and social activities in Buddhist temples around the country. In Indonesia, the largest Buddhist temples, Candi Mendut and Candi Borobudur, both located in the Magelang Regency of Central Java not far from Yogyakarta, are the focus of interest and attract those observing the holiday and tourists.
  • Three major historical events are celebrated on Waisak. The first is the birth of Siddhartha Gautama. The second is the acceptance of the divine revelation under the Bodhi tree. And the third is the journey of Siddhartha Gautama to heaven. These three big events occur exactly on the Full Moon Purnama Sidhi. Thus, Waisak is also very well known as Tri Suci Waisak or Three Holy Events. Buddhists celebrate Waisak by praying to their God Sang Tri Ratna as thanks giving for creating and maintaining the earth and its resources in harmony. It is very common for Buddhists to celebrate Waisak with the presentation of fruit, flowers and candles. For Buddhists, candles symbolize their philosophy of life, the sought-after enlightenment. Provinces with a relatively high percentage of Buddhists are Jakarta, Riau, North Sumatra, and West Borneo. Two of the large Buddhist monasteries are located in North Jakarta (Sunter) and West Java (Pacet), where traditional celebrations can be witnessed.
  • Although only about 1 percent of Indonesia’s population is Buddhist the whole country joins in honoring this special day celebrated by Buddhists in Indonesia. Every year at Waisak an impressive ceremony is held at Borobudur in Central Java. Borobudur is the second largest Buddhist temple in the world and an unequaled example of Buddhist architecture. It was built in the eighth or ninth century by the Shailendra dynasty and depicts the Buddhist cosmos. The monument is located on a hilltop and comprises a series of seven gray andesite stone terraces carved with narrative bas-reliefs depicting daily life, with rings of stupas enclosing statues of Buddha on the upper three levels and a massive closed stupa at the top. The Great Stupa stands 40 meters above the ground. Viewed from the air, Borobudur is laid out in the shape of a mandala, a Buddhist symbol used for meditation and prayer. The walk around each level of the Borobudur symbolizes a pilgrim’s gradual ascent toward pure knowledge and enlightenment. Since the monument was rediscovered (from the overgrowth in the forest) in the early 20th century it has undergone several restorations.
  • Nearby Mendut temple is an integral part of the Borobudur complex and is even older. It is located three kilometers from Borobudur and it is believed that pilgrims passed through this smaller temple complex before ascending the great Borobudur monument. Likewise at Waisak, a procession of approximately 25,000 Buddhist devotees commences at Mendut and proceeds slowly to Borobudur, the array of robes, banners, flowers, incense, colors and sounds providing a feast for all of the senses. Various sects or schools of Buddhism are united under the Council of Buddhist Communities (Walubi) that organizes the day’s events.
  • For the participants who gather to pay respect to Buddha, Waisak activities give strength to the spirit of all Buddhists. Buddha developed himself to achieve perfect mindfulness by dedicating himself to liberate all beings from suffering. Waisak reminds followers of Buddha to strive to become the best kind of human by sincerely and selflessly doing good deeds.

National and International Holidays in Indonesia

  • August 17th, Hari Proklamasi Indonesia – Indonesian Independence Day: Indonesians celebrate the proclamation of independence from 350 years of Dutch colonial rule. Festivities abound in cities and villages alike, organized by the government, neighborhood community associations and organizations.
  •  January 1st, Tahun Baru – New Year’s Day: New Year’s Eve is celebrated with some revelry in urban areas. Hotels, discos and major restaurants offer special meals, entertainment and dancing.
  • January – February Imlek – Chinese New Year: The Lunar New Year is celebrated by Indonesians of Chinese ancestry. Visiting of family and friends, special dishes Chinese New Year Cards used in Indonesia and gifts of ampau (money) mark the day’s activities. Dragon dances are held and limited outdoor decorations are seen on businesses and homes. Most Chinese merchants close their shops for at least one day and maybe up to a week. Greeting cards can be sent to Chinese friends and colleagues; many are available in the stores. The date for Imlek is based on the Chinese lunar calendar. Government offices are open for business.
  • A pioneer for women’s rights in Indonesia is honored on Kartini Day (21 April). Raden Ajeng Kartini, or Lady Kartini, was the daughter of a Javanese nobleman and studied at a Dutch school. A foundation established in her name after her early death at age 25 opened the first girls’ school in Java in 1916. Independence Day is celebrated on 17 August and is considered the most important holiday in Indonesia. There are also hundreds of holidays related to other regional, religious, and cultural groups.

Commemorative Days in Indonesia

  • Offices and businesses do NOT close on commemorative days. April 21st Hari Kartini – Kartini Day: The birthday of Raden Ajeng Kartini, a prominent leader in the women’s emancipation movement in Indonesia. The event is marked by activities within women’s groups. In Indonesian schools children compete in national dress competitions. The letters of Kartini to friends in Holland have been published in Letters of a Javanese Princess. May 2nd Hari Pendidikan Nasional – National Education Day celebrates the birth, growth and progress in the Indonesian education system. Ceremonies are held at schools across the nation. May 20th Hari Kebangkitan Nasional – National Awakening Day.
  • June 1st Hari Pancasila – Pancasila Day: commemorates the Indonesian State Philosophy, the five basic principles called Pancasila. Ceremonies are held at government offices and schools. June 22nd Ulang Tahun Jakarta – Jakarta’s Anniversary celebrates the founding of the city of Jakarta in 1527. The main event, the Jakarta Fair, is held at the Fairgrounds in Jakarta. In addition, performances highlighting Betawi (people indigenous to Jakarta) culture are held throughout the city. September 30th G30S-PKI (pronounced gay tiga puluh es) commemorates the attempted overthrow of the Indonesian government by the Communist Party of Indonesia. October 1st Hari Kesaktian Pancasila.
  • October 5th Hari ABRI – Armed Forces Day commemorates the glories and achievements of the Indonesian Armed Forces, highlighting and reaffirming their unique role in Indonesian society. October 28th Hari Sumpah Pemuda – Youth Pledge Day commemorates the uniting of the Indonesian youth against the Dutch and the pledge they developed on this day in 1928. November 10th Hari Pahlawan – Hero’s Day: Solemn ceremonies are held at national cemeteries around the archipelago. Those official designated as heroes by the Indonesian government are honored in a variety of forums and activities. December 22nd Hari Ibu – Mother’s Day: Events highlight the unique role of mothers specifically, and women in general.