Modern Christmas traditions in Indonesia are similar to traditions in many countries. There are sermon, presents, family gatherings and Christmas dishes. However, Indonesia’s rich culture also contributes to some unique Christmas traditions in various areas. Here are some unique Christmas traditions in Indonesia that show heavy traditional influences.
The Nativity ‘Wayang’ Story
Wayang kulit, or Javanese shadow puppet, is used by the priest in Yogyakarta to retell the Nativity Story during Christmas sermon. The priest himself wears unique garb; his robe is combined with elements of traditional Yogyakarta garbs such as traditional head cover called ‘blangkon’ and batik. The language he uses is usually ‘kromo inggil’ or refined Javanese.
Stone Pig Roast
In Papua province, villagers will hold spectacular Christmas meal by roasting pigs, tubers and vegetables together in a makeshift oven from big stones that they put on the ground. The pigs and tubers are placed on banana leaves, and they are covered with stones to roast. This unique Christmas tradition in Indonesia will not make you see Christmas dinner the same way again.
Marbinda and Marhobas
For Batak people in North Sumatra, Christmas is the time to do Marbinda, or cattle slaughtering. The cattle are bought by joined money of several people who know each other, and they usually start saving money for this purpose week before Christmas. When Christmas morning comes, they start doing the Marhobas (this is the name of the slaughtering activity). The meat will be distributed for celebration purpose.
The Rabo-rabo Music
In Kampung Tugu area in Jakarta, there is a unique Christmas tradition called Rabo-rabo. This is conducted after Christmas sermon, in which people will play some traditional, upbeat music while walking around the neighborhood. At each house the musicians visit, people are expected to come out and join the group, and that happens until the last house is visited. Back home, family members will gather and slab some white powder on each other’s faces, as a symbol of purification. And then, the celebration continues with Christmas meal.
Manado Kunci Taon Parade
Kunci Taon parade in Manado, North Sulawesi, is another unique Christmas tradition in Indonesia that puts a new look on your usual Christmas parade. In this parade, people do not use typical Christmas garbs and decorations. Instead, they put on some garish, funny and weird costumes. The parade is held on the first week of January, but this is still considered as a part of Christmas tradition.
This parade is a closing part of the entire Christmas ritual in Manado, which usually starts from the 1st December. During those weeks, people go to sermon, pray, visit family members and pray for the dead relatives and friends at the cemeteries.
Bamboo Cannons in East Nusa Tenggara
Kids and youths in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, are delighted whenever Christmas is near, because on 24th December, they are allowed to stay up all night and play with friends. And instead of puny fireworks, they use traditional bamboo cannons to make some sounds. On Christmas morning, the sermon and celebration will start as usual (probably with some more bamboo cannons).
These unique Christmas traditions in Indonesia are definitely unlike anything you have ever seen. They prove Indonesia’s rich culture.
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