Social Customs And Traditions In Indonesia
Customs And Traditions, Books On Customs
The Indonesian culture originated from the farming
activities of the indigenous people. It was influenced by the waves of traders from India,
China, Saudi Arabia and Europe which brought along their religious teachings.
Whilst unity has been a result of history, different cultures are based on many different
ethnic groups found throughout the country which have maintained their traditions,
languages and dialects. Protected by adat (customary law) which differs from one region to
another, modernization is only a superficial veneer covering the daily life in the cities.
Ultimately, adat is man's ties to his family and to his community and is applied to his
way of life.
Western influence arrived with the Portuguese, who came in search of spices in the early
16th century and later with the arrival of British and Dutch merchants.
The Hindu cultural heritage
is also found in this archipelago, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics which play
an important role in the Indonesian culture.
Customs and traditions which have merged with religious teachings, have brought about
different ceremonies and festivities, which vary from area to area.
Independence in Indonesia, August 17th
Similar to the July 4th celebrations in the United States. Each year, August the 17th is
celebrated nationwide. The highlight of the celebration is a flag-raising ceremony held at
the State Palace, Jakarta. On August 16, the President delivers a State Address to the
nation giving the Government's account before the Parliament with regard to domestic as
well as foreign policies.
undertaken during the celebrations, cover the fields of: sports, boy scout and girl guide
activities, scientific and literary competitions, elections of exemplary teachers,
students, social workers, doctors and so forth. Those who succeed in being selected as
exemplary persons are given an audience with the President in a celebration held at the
The Proclamation of
Independence Day is also commemorated and celebrated by Indonesian Embassies, Consulate
Generals and abroad together with members of the Indonesian community.
The first of January is a national holiday, Indonesians usually celebrate New Year's Eve
in various forms and festivities. It is not a traditional celebration.
Major Religious Holidays in
Major celebrations with respect to other religions are commemorated by those who follow
the religions concerned are proclaimed as National Holidays by the Government.
Moslem Religious Holidays in Indonesia
This celebration is based upon the lunar calendar, therefore it does not always fall on
the same date or month of the solar calendar. The celebration marks the conclusion of a
one-month fasting period which is religiously observed by all Moslems. The celebration
follows general prayers at the Mosque after which people visit each other to pay respects
and ask their elders and friends for forgiveness. Special foods are prepared for the
occasion and eaten in a communal meal. Indonesians celebrate Eidil Fitri for two days as a
Eid'l Adha: Pilgrimage holiday
The Moslem Day of sacrifices, commemorated with mass prayers at mosque and in town square.
Goats and cattle are slaughtered and the meat given to the poor and needy.
Muharram 1st: New Year
Isra' and Mi'raj of Prophet Mohammad: ascension day
Maulud: Birthday of Prophet Mohammad.
In Yogyakarta, celebrations to commemorate of the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad, about
one week before the actual day, begin with traditional ceremonies, carnivals and festival
The people of Yogyakarta and surroundings generally believe that those participating in
the ceremonies commemorating the birth of the Prophet will be blessed with a good life and
On the first day, starting from 08:00 p.m., two melodiously tuned gamelan sets: Kyai
Nogowilogi and Kyai Guntur Madu are played simultaneously in the Sultan's Palace (Keraton)
Ponconiti pavilion. At intervals a sermon is given and verses of the Holy Qur'an script
At midnight, guards of the Keraton escort the two gamelan sets carried in procession from
the Ponconiti pavilion to the Masjid Agung or Grand Mosque. At the Masjid Agung yard, Kyai
Nogowilogo is put in the north Pagongan and the Kyai Guntur Madu in the south. The two
gamelan sets are played simultaneously until the end of the Sekaten festivities is
declared at exactly 00:00 (midnight), right after the two gamelan sets are carried back
into the Kraton Yogyakarta.
On the day of the birthday of Prophet Mohammad, a parade of the Keraton guards and
procession of the Gunungan start from 8:00 a.m. at the Northern Square.
Christian Religious Holidays in Indonesia
Ascension day of Jesus Christ
Christmas is celebrated nationwide, particularly by those who profess the Christian faith.
Celebrations during Christmas day and the day after, besides the universal way, have a
somewhat regional flavor throughout the various cultures in Indonesia.
Buddhist Holidays in Indonesia
Waicak: Buddha's birthday and death
In Yogyakarta, the religious procession starts from the Mendut Temple located about 35 km
northwest of Yogyakarta, to the Borobudur temple.
Preceded by the holy fire, the Buddha statue and a Miniature stupa are carried in a
procession, followed by the Bikhsus, clad in their yellow robes and members of the
Buddhist community bringing with them candles and bundles of flowers. The moment the moon
is at it fullest, the principal Holy Waicak ceremony starts, comprising the commemoration
of the birth of Prince Sidharta, the moment he reached Buddha-hood when meditating in the
Uruvela forest under the Bodhi tree and the moment of his death and ascension to the
Nirvana. The Waicak ceremony in Yogyakarta is held at the Marangjati Vihara.
Hindu Religious Holidays in Indonesia
Nyepi: Saka New Year
The Hindu Dharma New Year of the solar/lunar (Caka) calendar is celebrated only in the
island of Bali.
This holiday falls on the Spring equinox and is observed as a day of complete stillness.
No fire may be lit, no transport taken, no work done. No one should be seen on the roads.
One day before Nyepi, the last day of the old year, purification sacrifices and offerings
are placed at crossroads and in the centers of the villages and towns all over Bali.
Priests chant mantras to exorcise the demons (buta and kala) of the old year.
In the evening the people of Bali bang gongs and cymbals in all the corners of the family
compound and parade through the streets with torches to make sure that all the lingering
evil spirits are aroused. In Denpasar (capital city of Bali), thousands of boys gather at
streets. The next day, the day of Nyepi, it is silent everywhere.