Unique Thanksgiving Traditions


This is the month of November and we usually link November with Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is essentially a harvest related festival. It celebrates communal harmony. Though it is said to have been originated in America, many other countries including my country celebrate similar type of harvest related festivals.

My country is culturally rich and we have more than 300 ethnic groups hence we have many different unique thanksgiving ceremonies and rituals that linked to harvest. We also have a special ‘thanksgiving traditional food’ named ‘Tumpeng’ as you can see in the picture above.

Tumpeng is a cone-shaped rice dish like mountain with its side dishes (vegetables and meat). Traditionally featured in the ‘slamatan’ ceremony, the cone shape of rice is made by using cone-shaped woven bamboo container.

The rice itself could be plain steamed rice, uduk rice (cooked with coconut milk , or  yellow rice  (uduk rice colored with kunyit /turmeric). The cone-shaped rice meant to mimics the holy mountain. The feast served as some kind of thanks giving for the abundance of harvest or any other blessings.

In this post, I would like to share some of the unique thanksgiving traditions from different parts of Indonesia:

Seren Taun

Seren Taun is an annual traditional Sundanese rice harvest festival and ceremony in West Java. This festivals originally held to mark the new agriculture year in Sundanese ancient calendar as well as thanks giving for the blessings of the abundance rice harvest, and also to pray for the next successful harvest.


Seren taun demonstrated the Sundanese agriculture way of life, and it is held in high importance in Sundanese traditional villages, as the festival draw thousands Sundanese villagers to participate as well as Indonesian or foreign visitors

Seren taun ceremony is not just entertainment, but also claims about how humans always give thanks to Almighty God, especially at harvest time facing. The ceremony is also intended to God to provide protection in the next planting season.

Dewi Sri Festival

Dewi Sri, or Shridevi (Dewi literally means goddess) (Javanese), Nyai Pohaci Sanghyang Asri (Sundanese) is the Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese pre-Hindu and pre-Islam era goddess of rice and fertility, still widely worshiped on the islands of Bali and Java. Despite her mythology is native to the island of Java, after the adoption of  Hinduism in Java as early as first century, the goddess is associated with the Hindu goddess Lakshmi as both are attributed to wealth and family prosperity.

Dewi Sri

Dewi Sri is believed to have dominion over the underworld and the Moon. Thus, Dewi Sri encompasses the whole spectrum of the Mother Goddess having dominion over birth dan Life: she controls rice: the staple food of Indonesians; hence life and wealth or prosperity.

The Javanese and Sundanese has a traditional ceremony called mapag Sri prior to rice harvest. Mapag Sri literary means “to pick up Sri”, or to be precise “to call or invite Sri.” The ceremony means to invoke the spirit of Sri to come to their village and also as a thanksgiving for a coming successful harvest.

Dewi Sri Festival

The Balinese provide special shrines in the rice fields dedicated to Dewi Sri. The effigy of the rice goddess is often made from carefully weaved janur (young coconut leaf), lontar or pandan leaf, or colored sticky rice and is called “Cili”.

shrine for dewi sri

Sedekah Bumi

Sedekah Bumi is a traditional ritual that still being held by some communities in East Java Province. This Sedekah Bumi is having different names in each region, but it has the same purpose either ways. Sedekah Bumi is kind of an offering and thanksgiving to the Earth or God, for the bountiful of harvest. The harvest can be either come from the fields or fisheries.

sedekah bumi

The celebration of the Sedekah Bumi is different between one region to another. In Gresik, Sedekah Bumi is held during Zulkaidah month (Islamic Calender) and Sela month (Javanese calender). There are some sub-districts in Gresik that participating this ritual, which is, Kedanyang village, Kebonmas subdistrict; Dahanlor village, Dahanrejo village; Manyar sub-district; Banjarsari village and Betiring village, Banjarsari Village, Cerme Sub-district.

Aruh Ganal

Aruh Ganal is the thanksgiving rituals for Dayak community. For Dayak people in Kalimantan, farming or also called ‘bahuma’ is not merely an economic activity to make ends meet, but also for the religious activities related to the Supreme Giver of Rizqi (blessing).

aruh ganal

Some say that the farming activity carried on by the Dayak is part of the religious field for dry rice cultivation. The culmination of the ritual tradition bahuma is Aruh Ganal (big feast), which is a party held after the harvest as an expression of gratitude for the blessing or Rizqi given by the Creator.

Aruh Ganal is conducted as it gets a lot of rice harvest and during bahuma not get disaster. Rice is included in this ceremony is the last time the rice is harvested or also called a second crop. Rice from the harvest has not be eaten before given ceremony. In other words, the new Dayak community will enjoy the fruits of their bahuma after giving thanks to the Almighty Giver Rizqi. Therefore Aruh Ganal a sacred ritual and magical nuances, then the implementation Aruh Ganal ceremony led by Balian.

aruh ganal 2

Balian is a figure (of directors) who have extensive knowledge of indigenous peoples about the ins and outs of customs and traditions of the Dayak community. This knowledge is obtained by studying with the Balian Tuha (Old Shaman) and do Balampah (a kind of meditation to build friendships with various types of spirits so as to obtain a certain supernatural powers).

aruh ganal 3


Every year from June until September, the people in Minahasa, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, have celebrated a traditional thanksgiving holiday from generation to generation, called Pengucapan. It is the way the people of Minahasa express their gratitude to God for the blessings of the previous year.


The Pengucapan tradition started when the people in this remote area of Indonesia still worshiped gods. They expressed their gratitude to the ultimate god or the highest god, known as opo wanatas empung walian empung rengan-rengan.

After the harvest, Minahasa people held a kuman kan weru ceremony to eat their harvest for the first time and express their gratitude though song and praise to their gods for fertility, good weather, harvest and health. They would  bring their crops as an offering to their gods.

For Pengucapan, people prepare special meals and welcome everyone to their house, even strangers. The food preparation starts the day before. In the early morning, people are busy preparing the meals for their coming guests. One of the traditional meals is ‘nasi jaha’ and people usually make hundreds of nasi jaha for Pengucapan.


Nasi jaha means rice with ginger. It’s made from sticky rice mixed with coconut milk, other spices and of course ginger. To cook it, people put the dough into bamboo stalks covered with banana leaves. Before they bake it, they leave it to dry in the sun for a while in the bamboo. Then they put the bamboo in the fireplace.

The responsibility for preparing Pengucapan is not only given to mothers and woman, but to men as well. The men gather and clean bamboo and cover it with banana leaves, so it will be ready to use.

cooking nasi jahaHAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY!
References and sources of pictures:




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