Indonesian festivals and events
Tahun Baru, New Year's Day (1st: public holiday).
New Year's Eveis celebrated with street carnivals, shows, fireworks and all-night festivities. In Christian areas, festivities are more exuberant, with people visiting each other on New Year's Day and attending church services.
Imlek, Chinese New Year (movable). An official holiday; many Chinese shops and businesses close for at least 2 days. Within the Chinese community, younger people visit their relatives, children are given
hong bao(lucky money), new clothes are bought and any unfinished business is cleared up.
Garebeg Maulad(or Maulud Nabi Muham- med, birthday of the Prophet Mohammad) (movable), to commemorate Prophet Muhammad's birthday in AD 571. Processions and Koran recitals in most big towns. Celebrations begin a week before the actual day and last a month, with
selamatansin homes, mosques and schools.
Wafat Isa Al-Masih, Good Friday (movable: public holiday).
Nyepi(movable: public holiday). Solar New Year, which is held at the Spring equinox. In the recent past it was a day of silence when everything closed down and no activity was allowed. It is hoped that the evil spirits roused by the previous night's activities will find Bali to be a barren land and will leave the island. On the day before Nyepi long parades of traditionally dressed Balinese, carrying offerings and sacred objects, walk from their villages to nearby riverbanks and beaches to undertake ritual ablutions of purification and ask for their deity's blessing. As part of the
melastirites, the village gods in their
pratimas(the small statue in which a god is invited to reside during a ceremony) are taken from the village temples and carried to the seashore for resanctification. Balinese believe that the sea will receive all evil and polluted elements, it is a place to cast off the evil words and deeds of the past year, and seek renewal and purification for the new Hindu year.
Note: Visitors must stay within their hotel compounds from 0500 to 0500 the following day; the observance of Nyepi is very strict in this regard, you might choose to avoid being on the island during this time. Tourists are confined to their accommodation, which in a small guesthouse means you feel as if you have been placed under 'house arrest' - no swimming in the sea 10 m from your bungalow, no strolls or other forms of exercise. Anyone arriving at Denpasar airport on the eve of Nyepi should be aware that most taxi drivers go home at 1700. The few who continue to offer a taxi service up to
midnight ask exorbitant rates and may be unlicensed. Travellers should arrange transport in advance with their accommodation
(21 Apr). A ceremony held by women to mark the birthday of Raden Ajeng Kartini, born in 1879 and proclaimed as a pioneer of women's emancipation. Women are supposed to be pampered by their husbands and children, although it is women's organizations like the Dharma Wanita who get most excited. Women dress in national dress.
Waisak Day(movable: public holiday). Marks the birth and death of the historic Buddha; at Candi Mendut outside Yogyakarta, a procession of monks carrying flowers, candles, holy fire and images of the Buddha walk to Borobudur.
Kenaikan Isa Al-Masihor Ascension Day (movable: public holiday).
Al Miraj(or Isra Miraj Nabi Muhammed)
(movable). The ascension of the Prophet Mohammad when he is led through the 7 heavens by the archangel. He speaks with God and returns to earth the same night, with instructions that include the 5 daily prayers.
Independence Day(17 Aug: public holiday). The most important national holiday, celebrated with processions and dancing. Although it's officially on 17 Aug, festivities continue for a month, towns are decorated with bunting and parades cause delays to bus travel, there seems to be no way of knowing when each town will hold its parades.
Awal Ramadan(movable). The 1st day of Ramadan, a month of fasting for all Muslims. Muslims abstain from all food, drink and smoking from sunrise to sundown - if they are very strict, Muslims do not even swallow their own saliva during daylight hours. It is strictly adhered to in more conservative areas like Aceh and West Sumatra, and many restaurants remain closed during daylight hours - making life tiresome for non-Muslims. Every evening for 30 days before breaking of fast, stalls selling traditional Malay cakes and delicacies are set up. The only people exempt from fasting are the elderly, those who are travelling, and women who are pregnant or menstruating.
Idul Fitri(Aidil Fitri) or
Lebaran(movable: public holiday) is a 2-day celebration that marks the end of Ramadan, and is a period of prayer and celebration. In order for Hari Raya to be declared, the new moon of Syawal has to be sighted; if it is not, fasting continues for another day. It is the most important time of the year for Muslim families. Mass prayers are held in mosques and squares. Public transport is booked up weeks in advance and hotels are often full.
Hari Pancasila(1 Oct). This commemorates the Five Basic Principles of Pancasila.
Armed Forces Day(5 Oct). The anniversary of the founding of the Indonesian Armed Forces; military parades and demonstrations.
Idhul Adha(movable: public holiday). Celebrated by Muslims to mark the 10th day of Zulhijgah, the 12th month of the Islamic calendar when pilgrims celebrate their return from the Haj to Mecca. In the morning, prayers are offered; later, families hold 'open house'. This is the 'festival of the sacrifice'. Burial graves are cleaned, and an animal is sacrificed to be distributed to the poor to commem- orate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son. Indonesian men who have made the pilgrimage to Mecca wear a white skull-hat.
Muharram(movable: public holiday), Muslim New Year. Marks the 1st day of the Muslim calendar and cele- brates the
Prophet Muhammad's journey from Mecca to Medina on the lunar equivalent of AD 16 Jul 622.
Christmas Day(25 Dec: public holiday). Celebrated by Christians - the Bataks of Sumatra, the Toraja and Minahasans of Sulawesi and in some of the islands of Nusa Tenggara, and Irian Jaya.