In Indonesia, people recognize three types of New Year celebration; the ‘regular’ New Year every January 1st, the Islamic New Year and Chinese New Year. This is because Indonesia is a huge melting pot of various ethnicities and cultures, so all of these three events are celebrated hugely. Unique New Year traditions in Indonesia are varied depending on who celebrate and where they celebrate them. Here is a look of unique New Year celebrations of the three New Years in Indonesia.
New Year in January
Generally, people in Indonesia celebrate New Year’s Eve by lighting up fireworks, blowing paper trumpets and joining New Year party that is usually held in hotels, restaurants, clubs, beaches or any places where huge mass of people can flock. The entertainments are mostly musical performance like the ever-present ‘dangdut’ concert, but in Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, the New Year’s Eve performances also include traditional performances.
Chinese New Year
There are so many unique New Year traditions in Indonesia regarding Chinese New Year (or ‘Imlek’ according to locals). There are many traditions brought from China to Indonesia by many families, and even Chinese families who have already blended seamlessly with local life still maintain these traditions.
One unique tradition is eating a whole fish but only on one side, and he or she cannot flip the fish over to eat the fish meat on the other side. The fish will be kept to be eaten again on the next morning, symbolizing extra wealth and prosperity that will come next year. Therefore, whenever Chinese New Year approaches, fish price in various markets will be higher.
Chinese families will also avoid cleaning their houses during the New Year day, especially sweeping, because it is believed to ‘sweep out’ wealth and prosperity from their houses. They will also not eat porridge, as it is considered a bad luck since porridge is something poor people eat. Older people will hand out money to kids and youths in red envelopes, which are called ‘angpaw.’ Of course, some places become venues for Chinese dragon show or ‘barongsai.’
Islamic New Year
The majority of Indonesian people are Muslims, so there are many unique New Year traditions in various areas related to this particular celebration. In Makassar, South Sulawesi, housewives will ‘attack’ the markets and grocery stores to buy kitchen appliances such as bowls, buckets and basins; essentially anything that is used to contain something. This symbolizes hopes for prosperity and blessing. They can buy like five buckets or six basins in one purchase, which of course make the sellers happy.
In Java, Islamic New Year is on the same day with the first day of Javanese calendar, usually known as ‘Malam Satu Suro.’ At this time, people will go into all night praying and meditation, often with one day fasting. In Solo, people usually flock on the street to side parade of sacred white water buffalo from the Solo palace called Kyai Slamet. Meanwhile, in Yogyakarta, there is also parade where the participants showcase sacred relics from Yogyakarta palace.
In Sumedang, West Java, people do torch parade at night, while kids lit fireworks and fire crackers. Whatever unique New Year traditions in Indonesia, all have one purpose: to welcome the new year with better self, and try to be a better person for the whole year.
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