Unique Christmas Traditions

Christmas in Indonesia from tempo-co

I’m not really sure how suddenly it’s already December………I feel like I just posted about Thanksgiving a few weeks ago. But now it’s December…………. and I’m sitting here in the glow of the lights from the Christmas tree.

This means it’s time for me to post something about Christmas 🙂

While I was thinking about what to post, I found a very interesting article by Rina Atmasari published in Tempo.co about some unique traditions and methods in celebrating this special day in my country.

So for this post, I decided to share some unique ways to celebrate Christmas in different regions of Indonesia:

Rabo Rabo in Jakarta

In Jakarta, there is an area named Kampung Tugu that is known as a place where Indonesians with Portuguese descendants reside. Kampung Tugu has a unique tradition for celebrating Christmas.

Rabo Rabo Kampung Tugu

After mass, the community visits a graveyard next to their local church and then performs the Rabo-Rabo tradition, which entails playing keroncong music and dancing together while circling the area and visiting relatives and friends.

The inhabitants of each visited house must then follow the performers and perform along with them resulting in a chain of performers in the streets up until the last house in the area.

The peak of the community’s celebration is the mandi-mandi tradition where people gather in the homes of their relatives and festively draw and paint on each other face using white powder as a symbol of atonement and forgiveness for the upcoming New Year. They will begin the New Year with a clean slate.

Traditional celebration in Yogyakarta

In Yogyakarta, Christmas celebrations are rife with traditions. The priest  usually leads mass wearing traditional beskap suits and blangkon hats while speaking in soft Javanese, complete with a wayang kulit (shadow puppet) performance named “The Birth of Christ”.

Christmas tradition in Yogya

People also have a tradition of visiting relatives’ homes, similar to Eid Al Fitr, and children sometimes receive money from their elders.

Marbinda in North Sumatra

The Batak community in North Sumatra has a tradition they call Marbinda, which is sacrificing an animal together on Christmas day.

Marbinda

The sacrificed animal is prepared by chipping in to purchase the animal, months before Christmas. If many chip in, they usually sacrifice a buffalo yet if only a few chip in, they will only sacrifice a pig.

The meat will then be divided among those who chipped in to purchase the animal.

Kunci Taon in Manado

In Manado, North Sulawesi, Christmas celebrations begin on December 1 with pre-Christmas practices are done up until Christmas day.

manado

Many also have the tradition of visiting the graves of their loved ones, usually after Christmas but before New Year’s Eve, and having a picnic at the graveyard. During these days, graveyards are often cleaned up and decorated with lights and ornaments to give a more festive feel of the holidays.

Christmas celebrations continue until the first Sunday in January, where it ends with the kunci taon tradition where the community parades the streets and villages in cute and entertaining costumes.

The Sounds of Christmas in……

Flores

In Flores, Christmas is often associated with bamboo cannons that are fired at almost every corner of the city on Christmas Eve. Youngsters usually stay up the whole night on December 24 while playing fireworks.

flores

Ambon

In Ambon, sirens of ships and church bells can be heard throughout the city on Christmas Eve. This moment is usually accompanied by family gatherings.

natal di ambon

Papua

Another unique tradition is in Papua where the people have the tradition of holding a barapen, or stone burning, party. This is a local culinary ritual for cooking pig meat as a part of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Aside from that, many areas are decorated with Christmas ornaments complete with Christmas songs played for 24-hours.

natal di papua

Penjor in Bali

Christians in Bali usually celebrate Christmas by wearing traditional clothing from their respective regions, such as ‘kebaya’, ‘sashes’, and ‘kamen’ fabric in black and white.

During Christmas day, church areas are decorated with bamboos and janur, which is a distinctive ornament in Bali known as Penjor.

Tradisi natal di Bali

Lovely December in Toraja

Near Christmas each year, the Toraja administration holds a culture and tourism festival named Lovely December.

The festival begins early December and the peak of the event is always celebrated on December 26 with a procession called ‘lettoan’.

kunci taon Manado

Lovely December consists of various events tourists can enjoy, such as carnivals, art performances, traditional ceremonies, handicraft exhibitions, and culinary delights.

Sources of information & pictures:

  • Unique Indonesian traditions for celebrating Christmas by Rina Atmasari – Tempo.Co.Jakarta 25 December 2013
  • kebudayaanindonesia.net
  • christmas.fundootimes.com
  • febriedethan.hubpages.com
  • barondaambon.weebly.com
  • manado.tribunews.com
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