Indonesian people are said to be very traditional in their approach, thus celebrating every festival with complete ceremonies and rituals. Celebrated throughout the year, these festivals have originated from Javanese, Balinese, Muslims and various other communities living together harmoniously in the country. Some famous ones can be listed as follows:
Ramadan: With a majority of the population of Islamic religion, Ramadan is widely celebrated all across the nation. This is the ninth month of Islamic calendar during which Muslims fast during the day time for the whole month. Evening is the time of celebrations when various delicacies and gastronomical extravaganzas are prepared. Work times of offices are also altered to suit the festive celebrations. Celebrated with much fervor and excitement, Ramadan marks 30 days of religious fasting in addition to 30 days of festive celebrations.
Eid al Fitr: Coming right at the end of Ramadan, Eid al Fitr marks the end of this holy month of fasting. Celebrated with huge pomp and show, the festival is celebrated for three complete days and is said to be one of the most significant festival in the Islamic calendar. Marking an end of period of restraint, the festival brings with it an explosion of joie de vivre along with a rejuvenated spirit of camaraderie. People prepare several food delicacies to mark the event and share it with their friends, family and neighbors. Plans are made months in advance to make visits to the family and friends’ homes.
New Year: Said to be the first public holiday of the country, New Year’s Day in Indonesia is celebrated with great pomp and gaiety like any other country of the world. Also known as Tahun Baru Masehi in Indonesian language, this day is celebrated by people mostly preferring to spend time with their friends and family. Being a public holiday, you can see them thronging the cinema halls of the restaurants of the city. They spend the day eating and drinking and visiting some of the major tourist attractions of the city. Gifts are exchanged, feasts are laid out and parties are organized to mark the commemoration of the New Year.
Independence Day: Proclaimed an independent nation on August 17th, 1945, Indonesia became free from Dutch colonial rule after 300 years marking the birth of a nation after a long relentless struggle. Also known as Hari Proklamasi locally, the day is commemorated with formal ceremonies and vibrant festive celebrations all across the country. Various interesting activities are planned for the day such as free concerts, sports competitions, town parades with marching bands as well as several art performances. Preparations for the festivities start weeks in advance with special promotional sales announced by almost all the major malls. In fact, the whole country takes on a red and white hue to coincide with the national flag with words ‘Dirghayu Republik Indonesia’ (Long live Republic of Indonesia) seen almost everywhere. However, the pinnacle of the celebrations is when the flag is hoisted at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta at 10 am on 17th August along with the reading of the Proclaimation of Independence.
Christmas: Though only a small percentage of the population is Christian, 8 percent to be exact, Christmas is a popular festival across the country that is celebrated with much fervor. Also a declared national holiday, the day brings with it the usual Christmas celebrations in the markets and shops with many people organizing special parties to celebrate the event. Carols are sung by children in their schools to mark the event with several schools even distributing gifts through Santa.
Nyepi: Considered to be the biggest festival for any Balinese Hindu, Nyepi Day is a day of silence celebrated on the Hindu New Year day. Though on the day of festival itself, everything in Bali is closed and people practice fasting and meditation, it is the day prior to the festival that see maximum activity. People scrub clean their statues of gods, hold prayer ceremonies and perform several other rituals. Just a day before Nyepi comes Tawur Kesanga when the special exorcism ceremonies are performed using monsters made of bamboo which are then burned to get rid of evil spirits from our lives. On Nyepi day itself, everything is closed to mark the riddance of evil spirits from the island and starting of everything anew.
Galungan and Kuningan: Galungan is an important Hindu festival in Bali when the ancestors are paid respects with offerings and prayers. People visit their family places including their ancestral homes and graves as well homes of those families who have helped them in any way in their best attires. Streets are filled with festive spirit as the festival also marks the victory of good over evil. Kuningan marks the last day of the 10 day Gunangan period that is usually spent with family to offer prayers to ancestors returning back to heavan. Done in the privacy of homes or temples, the latter day is spent having fun with friends and family.
Toraja Funeral Ceremony: Famous for their elaborate funeral rites unique to them, Toraja people live in the highlands of Sulawesi and celebrate these rites between July to September. This is the time when the children are at home from school, rice is harvested and complex funeral rites are performed for the ancestors. With a cool environment for the most of the year, the place is increasingly becoming famous for their fascination with death and the ceremonies around the same including cave graves, hanging graves, baby tree graves, and a special mass slaughter of buffaloes done annually that brings a strange yet captivating feel around it.
Baliem valley Festival: Unique to Papua people of various local tribes who practice their belief through this festival, Baliem Valley Festival is not a conflict but a symbol of prosperity and fertility. The main event is celebrated in August with a mock war between 20 different tribes. Each tribe consists of 30 to 50 people clad completely ion traditional grabs and fighting gear. In addition to these mock war games, there are also some traditional dance performances as well as a showcase of the traditional food. The festival brings forth the rich, unique and indigenous culture of the Baliem valley tribes for all the visitors to see.
Kasada: The festival of Kasada in Indonesia is dedicated to Mount Bromo which is said to be one of the most famous volcanic mountains of the country. Located between Bali and Surabaya, this mountain is also a major tourist attraction with a large number of people coming not only to take a look at its deep craters but also to attend the celebrations of this festival. During Kasada which is said to be the twelfth month of Tenggerese Calendar, the people of the country climb the 2392 meters high volcanic mountain to offer prayers and pay tribute to their forefathers and ancestors. The festival is held on the fourteenth day of this month. Though Mont Bromo is dormant, however many a times sulphur fumes can still be seen being emitted from the craters. Whenever the locals hear any rumbling and grumbling sound from the crater, they rush to this pace to give their offerings. Hence one can say that Kasada is basically celebrated to keep the holy mountain from erupting. The offerings range from fruits, flowers, and chicken to bigger and unique items like live water- buffaloes. These offerings are either thrown in the crater or are given to the Muslim petitioners. This festival clearly highlights the Indonesians’ belief in nature Gods.
Pasola: Celebrated across various locations in East Nusa Tenggara during February or March every year, Pasola is celebrated when the announcement for the same is done regarding where and when the celebrations shall be held. This is a well known jousting festival, also famous internationally, where people ride horses without saddles and throw spears at each other to unseat the opponent. This annual traditional Sumba ritual is practiced to keep the spirits happy and bring good harvest for the tribe.
Bau Nyale Fishing Festival: Celebrated every year with much enthusiasm around February or March in Lombok, Bau Nyale Fishing festival is witnessed by hundreds of people who come to see the first glimpse of Nyale (a wormlike fish).According to the local Sasak people, the festival is celebrated to commemorate a mythical princess who had drown in these waters while escaping a politically arranged marriage. Coinciding with the season of these fishes, this festival is celebrated with much fervor wherein these fishes are caught and eaten roasted with banana leaves with much enthusiasm.
Waisak: To commemorate the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha, Vesak or Waisak is observed by all Indonesian Buddhists. Celebrated sometime around the full moon of May or June, the celebrations are specially grand in Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument of the world. With thousands of pilgrims and monks flocking to the place, there is a special symbolic walking ceremony that starts from Mendut to Pawon and ending right at Borobudur. Promising lots of colors, some spectacular sights and plenty of celebrations, the day will make offer you a glimpse into varied traditions that are just marvelous to witness even though you may not be Buddhist.
Bali Arts Festival: Held from June to July every year in Bali, the Bali Arts festival is inarguable the best arts festival of the country to visit. People from different countries travel to Bali to visit Denpasar where a full month of daily cultural performances, handicraft and handloom exhibitions and other arts related activities are held. It feels as if whole of Bali has come together to showcase their love for everything artistic. You can see performances from the remotest corners of Indonesia with special forgotten ritual dances, classical palace dances as well as contemporary dances up for viewing. The festival was in fact conceptualized to promote cultural tourism along with providing a showcase to the dancers from around the county to show their performances to international audiences.