Christmas Day in Indonesia

Even if Indonesia is the most prominent Muslim country, they still honour western festivals, and that includes Christmas. Originally, it was a religious public holiday in Indonesia that was celebrated before the New Year holiday. That was what others think about how they celebrate Christmas, which is not entirely true.

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The Overview of Indonesia Christmas Day Celebration

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The truth is that only Christians celebrate Christmas in Indonesia. But due to its popularity, a lot of public buildings like offices, malls, and government buildings put up Christmas decorations too. Indonesian people and their government tolerate what is portrayed by the western media. If you visit Jakarta on Christmas, you will see a lot of buildings adorned with Christmas ornaments.

The Christians in Indonesia attend church services on Christmas Eve and also on Christmas Day. In many cathedrals and churches, people will put up nativity scenes which will be used in performing Nativity drama.

If you are curious and want to celebrate Christmas in Indonesia, you can find out more here.


What is Christmas Day in Indonesia All About?

Indonesia considers Christmas time to be significant. During Christmas, they show the nation that the country still respects inter-religious principles, and it is part of their way of life. They show that Indonesia is diverse and accepts other cultures with respect and recognition. The president and vice president also attended the Christmas celebration with their wives in any Christian community they choose.

Those who are unaware will be surprised that Indonesia celebrates Christmas. Understandably, Indonesia is usually thought to be an Islamic state instead of just having the biggest population of Muslims in the world. Even if Muslims take up 88% of their community, the constitution guarantees religious freedom, which is the UUD 1945. Within the religious minority, the largest group are Christians.

The Christmas greeting in Indonesian is “Selamat Hari Natal”, and they usually say “dan Tahun Baru” (and a Happy New Year!) after that.

It is very common in Indonesia to say their best wishes during religious holidays to their loved ones. You can greet anyone who is celebrating because they will appreciate it. Where different religions exist, most of the time the greeting is said with “bagi yang merayakan” (for those who are celebrating).


How to Celebrate Christmas Day in Indonesia and Things You Can Do

  • You can go to the supermarket that sells western products to buy turkeys, beef, cranberry sauce, and others that are typically found on a Christmas table. You can expect higher prices because you are buying them during the season, and their stocks are limited. That is why it is sometimes best to buy them and stock them.
  • The churches will have Christmas celebrations, and they will generally be full even if the service happens occurs multiple times. In the cities where there are many ex-pats, you will find services that are in English and other languages.
  • Go shopping and exchange gifts – When you go Christmas shopping in Indonesia, you will feel like being in the west because it is also very commercialized. You can see many Christmas decorations, with fake snow which starts in the early part of December. You can also purchase Christmas trees. They usually are artificial ones, but you can also find real pine trees to decorate your home. Another unique kind of tree they have use chicken feathers, which are made from homes in Bali. They export these feather trees to different countries.
  • Gather with your family – Indonesians are known to have a close-knit family, and they make sure to see each other every now and then. Christmas eve is no exception because they will even go to their relatives’ home to join them for Christmas lunch or dinner.
  • Do charity – There are needy organizations that you can send donations to. You can get in touch with your church, community, or organization to ask if they want to donate items they do not use anymore. You can also organize your own donation drive to commemorate Christmas. It is an excellent way to clear your closet before the holiday season begins. This experience can be fulfilling and enlightening for you and the children to help out in an orphanage and give gifts.


How Christmas Day in Indonesia is Celebrated

Indonesia adopted some western influence, including the Pohon Natal (Christmas tree) and Santa Claus, which they usually refer to as Sinterklas. In large cities such as Jakarta, Sinterklas can normally be seen in big malls.

Santa Claus also visits the Padma Resort, where kids can take pictures with him and enjoy the tradition. There are fireworks in different cities, and if you happen to be in Bali, you can enjoy the fireworks from Kuta Beach.

Aside from western influence, they also add their own touch to the Christmas celebration. For instance, there is a performance of Christ’s birth through the Shadow Puppet or Wayang Kulit in Yogyakarta.

Those who are in Bali celebrate Christmas by wearing their traditional Balinese clothing. There is a Christmas count down in Makassar, Sulawesi beside the beach where there are also stalls that sell different things. Classical dangdut music is playing as you shop and enjoy the celebration.

The Javanese celebrate Christmas differently because they have their own version of a Christmas tree. It is made from woods, paper, and other recycle materials.


Venues and Special Events for Celebrating Christmas Day in Indonesia

  • You can go to Yogyakarta and attend the mass lead by a priest wearing a beskap suit and a blangkon hat while speaking in Javanese. The priest will also do a shadow puppet performance which is called “The Birth of Christ”. People also visit their relatives’ homes, and sometimes children receive money from elders.
  • If you go to Manado in North Sulawesi, you can experience celebrating Christmas as early as December 1. From the start of the month until Christmas day, they have pre-Christmas practices. A lot of them also visit the graves of loved ones, usually after Christmas and before New Year. They follow it by having a picnic at the graveyard. The Christmas celebrations typically last until the first week of January. They end it with a kunci taon tradition, and the community will go to the streets and villages to celebrate.

You will find a lot of different ways to celebrate Christmas in Indonesia, and you will for sure, enjoy every moment of it. Christmas is one of the most festive seasons celebrated around the world and Indonesia great place to experience the Christmas spirit.


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