It’s Christmas Time Again

Time really flies in 2013 ….suddenly it’s Christmas time again so I guess it’s time for me to write something about Christmas again.


I live in a country where 85% of the population are Muslim and only around  10% are Christians, but that’s still about 24 million people so Christmas is celebrated too here.

To celebrate Christmas, Indonesian Christians usually go to church services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In most churches and cathedrals, people create nativity scenes and use them as part of the Nativity drama performance.

Christmas tree in Indonesia are normally artificial ones made of plastic. Although less common, some people have real Pine trees to be decorated as Christmas trees. Another special type of Christmas tree are ones made from goose feathers – made by people in their homes in Bali island. These feather trees have been exported to different countries around the world.

Christmas tree from goose feathers

In early December, huge Christmas trees with beautiful and colorful decorations can be found in most shopping malls in big cities all over the country.

Christmas in Indonesia

Santa Claus is also very popular and is called ‘Sinterklas’ (Dutch’s influence). Sinterklas brings presents to children on Christmas Day – and you also might see him in shopping malls, etc.!

Although we don’t really have typical Christmas foods but some typical cookies are a must-have food during Christmas in my country.

Nastar –  a butter cookie with pineapple jam filling,


Kaastengel – a cheese shortbread cookie


Putri Salju or Snow White – a butter cookie covered with powdered sugar.

putri salju

While modern Christmas traditions in my country are similar to traditions in many other countries, Indonesia’s rich culture also contributes to some unique Christmas traditions in various areas. Here I would like to share some unique Christmas traditions I found in posted by Sham MD that show heavy traditional influences:

The Nativity ‘Wayang’ Story

Wayang for Christmas

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

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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