A Pedacito Of Celebrating Triple New Year's In Indonesia
Updated: Jun 19
“Where do you come from?” asked my new foreign friends.
“Indonesia,” I told them. Then suddenly, their faces looked confused.
“Bali, do you know Bali?” I’d tried my best to build the bridge of familiarity.
“Oh, we got it. So, which part of Bali is Indonesia?”
Creak, oh my. I was at a loss for words and felt a little numb in my heart. That was such an awkward moment. The hilarious part is I’ve received this kind of honest response not only once. Almost everybody knows Bali. It is one of 34 provinces in Indonesia. However, do the people of this world realize that Indonesia is a country that even exists?
Remembering that kind of experience is making me laugh now. If I hadn't been born in Indonesia, I probably would be as confused as my foreign friends. As an archipelagic country on the equator, Indonesia consists of various religions and cultures.
The total area of Indonesia is about 5 million km² and has an average of 300 million inhabitants. Maybe that's what makes the people of Indonesia look so diverse.
Some of us look like Chinese or Japanese people. Some of us are Indian or Arabian people. Some of us even resemble Europeans. Perhaps, it is hard to mark physical similarities among Indonesian people. As the harmony of diversity is what unites us.
The presence of ethnic and cultural diversities enriches various celebrations in Indonesia. We can even celebrate triple New Year’s in a year: New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year, and Islamic New Year.
Besides Christmas, New Year’s Eve is part of the year-end holiday agenda in Indonesia. That’s a time to gather with family and friends and is a great time for traveling.
There are many ways to welcome New Year's Eve. Some people take a walk to the beach and enjoy the year-end sunset. Some of them hold dinner with loved ones. Others also set off fireworks as part of the celebration.
Meanwhile, the Chinese New Year in Indonesia, called Imlek, doesn’t refer to the Gregorian calendar. The Imlek celebration starts on the first day of the first month, zhēngyuè (正月), in the Chinese calendar. This calendar uses both the solar and lunar cycles.
Just like on New Year's Eve celebrations, firecrackers and fireworks are synonymous with New Year's Chinese celebrations too. According to Chinese belief, burning firecrackers and fireworks right on Chinese New Year is mandatory to drive away bad luck in the previous year and hope for a better and happier new year.
The Chinese New Year is a sacred moment for Indonesian people, especially the ethnic Chinese (Tionghoa). This celebration is enjoyed by all Indonesian people, especially during the Liong and Barongsai dance performances and the lantern festival.
In Chinese tradition, the Liong and Barongsai dances are symbols of happiness and pleasure. Performing these dances during Imlek can bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. Meanwhile, the Lantern Festival, Deng Jie 灯节, is the main celebration in the Chinese New Year holiday series.
Lanterns have been a Chinese cultural tradition for thousands of years. For Tionghoa people in Indonesia, lanterns are like a hope of light. A symbol of a happy new year bringing happiness and success.
As a country with a majority Muslim population, the people of Indonesia also celebrate Islamic New Year. The Islamic New Year also doesn’t use the Gregorian calendar. The Islamic New Year celebrates every 1st Muharram of the Lunar Hijri calendar. There are 12 months of the Hijri, starting with Muharram and ending with Dhu al-Hijjah.
In Indonesia, Muslims usually celebrate the Islamic New Year with various traditions. From praying, visiting graves, visiting the sick, helping orphans, giving charity, fasting, and multiplying remembrance of Allah.
The turn of the Islamic New Year becomes a moment for self-introspection or Muhasabah (محاسبة). As time goes on, through this Islamic celebration, hopefully, Muslim people will be more aware of all their actions and deeds they have done during the past 12 months.
At the same time, they need to think about what should be improved and what practices they should be aware of in the coming year.
Even though New Year's Eve celebration uses the Gregorian calendar, the Chinese New Year celebration uses the Chinese calendar, and Islamic New Year uses the Hijri calendar, those three celebrations have happened closely for 12 months.
So, in a year, the Indonesian people uniquely celebrate three types of New Year's celebrations. Sounds cool, don't they?
The diversity of New Year's celebrations in Indonesia makes me realize the golden wisdom of these celebrations; to keep remembering oneself to be a warm and caring human being. As humans, we need to take time to be grateful, reflect on the past, and design the future for the common good.
So, happy New Year to everyone around the world. Wishing every day of yours to be filled with peace of mind, purposeful life goals, and prosperity.
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