Christmas in Indonesia

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Christmas tree in Mall Taman Anggrek, Jakarta, Indonesia Christmas Tree Mall Taman Anggrek.jpg
Christmas tree in Mall Taman Anggrek, Jakarta, Indonesia

Christmas in Indonesia (locally known as Natal, from the Portuguese word for Christmas), which has approximately 25 million Christians (of which about 30% are Roman Catholics), [1] is celebrated with various traditions throughout the country. In the regions with a majority of Christians (Protestants and Catholics), there are Christmas celebrations with ceremonies and local food. [2] In big cities, the shopping centres are mostly decorated with plastic Christmas trees and Sinterklas (derived from the Dutch word Sinterklaas ). Most local television channels broadcast Christmas musical concerts and the annual, national Christmas celebration which is organised by the government. In addition to traditional foods, generally every Christmas Day is filled with cookies, like nastar (pineapple tart), kastengel (from Dutch word kaasstengel), or 'putri salju'. [3]

Portuguese language Romance language that originated in Portugal

Portuguese is a Western Romance language originating in the Iberian Peninsula. It is the sole official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe. It also has co-official language status in East Timor, Equatorial Guinea and Macau in China. As the result of expansion during colonial times, a cultural presence of Portuguese and Portuguese creole speakers are also found in Goa, Daman and Diu in India; in Batticaloa on the east coast of Sri Lanka; in the Indonesian island of Flores; in the Malacca state of Malaysia; and the ABC islands in the Caribbean where Papiamento is spoken, while Cape Verdean Creole is the most widely spoken Portuguese-based Creole. A Portuguese-speaking person or nation is referred to as "Lusophone" (Lusófono).

Christianity in Indonesia

Christianity is Indonesia's second-largest religion, after Islam. Indonesia also has the second-largest Christian population in Southeast Asia after the Philippines, the largest Protestant population in Southeast Asia, and the fourth-largest Christian in Asia after the Philippines, India and China. Indonesia's 24 million Christians constitute 10% of the country's population, with 7% Protestant and 3% Catholic. Some provinces in Indonesia are majority Christian.

Christmas tree decorated tree used in the celebration of Christmas

A Christmas tree is a decorated tree, usually an evergreen conifer such as a spruce, pine or fir, or an artificial tree of similar appearance, associated with the celebration of Christmas, originating in Northern Europe. The custom was developed in medieval Livonia, and in early modern Germany where Protestant Germans brought decorated trees into their homes. It acquired popularity beyond the Lutheran areas of Germany and the Baltic countries during the second half of the 19th century, at first among the upper classes.


By region


Christmas in Papua is marked with Barapen (grilling stone). Barapen Ceremony Baliem Valley.jpg
Christmas in Papua is marked with Barapen (grilling stone).

In the Papua region, after the Christmas mass, a Barapen (grilling stone) will be held, which is a ritual cooking of pork for the feast. The pork meat will be cooked in-between hot stones which are heated using wood. Instead of using matches, Papuan people will scrape the wood continuously to produce heat to set it on fire. In order to prepare the Barapen, the Papuan men will dig a hole to put the hot stones in. At the same time, Papuan women will prepare the vegetables, such as sweet potato, water spinach, fern, cassava, spinach, and papaya. At first, the hot stones are stacked on the base of the hole. Then, the pork and vegetables will be put into the hole, and covered with another layer of hot stones. The three stacks of this arrangement will cook the pork in the hole for half a day. The tradition of Barapen is an expression of gratitude, togetherness, sharing, and love which is characterised by eating pork together. [4] [5]

Sweet potato species of plant

The sweet potato is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the bindweed or morning glory family, Convolvulaceae. Its large, starchy, sweet-tasting, tuberous roots are a root vegetable. The young leaves and shoots are sometimes eaten as greens. The sweet potato is only distantly related to the potato and does not belong to the nightshade family, Solanaceae, but both families belong to the same taxonomic order, the Solanales.

Fern group of plants

A fern is a member of a group of vascular plants that reproduce via spores and have neither seeds nor flowers. They differ from mosses by being vascular, i.e., having specialized tissues that conduct water and nutrients and in having life cycles in which the sporophyte is the dominant phase. Ferns have complex leaves called megaphylls, that are more complex than the microphylls of clubmosses. Most ferns are leptosporangiate ferns, sometimes referred to as true ferns. They produce coiled fiddleheads that uncoil and expand into fronds. The group includes about 10,560 known extant species.

Cassava Species of plant

Manihot esculenta, commonly called cassava, manioc, yuca, macaxeira, mandioca and aipim is a woody shrub native to South America of the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae. Although a perennial plant, cassava is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates. Though it is often called yuca in Latin American Spanish and in the United States, it is not related to yucca, a shrub in the family Asparagaceae. Cassava is predominantly consumed in boiled form, but substantial quantities are used to extract cassava starch, called tapioca, which is used for food, animal feed and industrial purposes. The Brazilian farinha, and the related garri of Western Africa, is an edible coarse flour obtained by grating cassava roots, pressing moisture off the obtained grated pulp, and finally drying it.


Particularly in Negeri Naku, South Leitimur, Ambon, there is a ceremony called cuci negeri (cleaning the nation). This ceremony symbolises the purification and liberation of sins from the local people and their environment. The cuci negeri is started with a gathering in the community function hall for each clan to hold their own traditional ritual. From there, the Ambonese will walk to the traditional function hall. They do not walk in silence, but sing and dance along with the sounds of tifa (traditional music instrument). Along the way, the women bring some offerings like betel, areca nut, and traditional drink called sopi. [6] Another unique characteristic of Christmas celebration in the Maluku is that the ship sirens will sound and church bells will be rung at the same time on Christmas Eve. [5] [7]

In a religious context, sin is an act of transgression against divine law. In Islamic ethics, Muslims see sin as anything that goes against the commands of Allah (God). Judaism regards the violation of any of the 613 commandments as a sin. In Jainism, sin refers to anything that harms the possibility of the jiva (being) to attain moksha.

Ambonese ethnic group

The Ambonese, also known as South Moluccans, are an Indonesian ethnic group of mixed Austronesian-Papuan origin. They are mostly Christians or Muslims. The Ambonese are from Ambon Island in Maluku, an island group east of Sulawesi and north of Timor in Indonesia. They also live on the southwest of Seram Island; which is part of the Moluccas, Java, New Guinea; on the West Papua side and other regions of Indonesia. Additionally, there are about 35,000 Ambonese people living in the Netherlands. By the end of the 20th century, there were 258,331 Ambonese people living in Ambon, Maluku.

Betel species

The betel is a vine belonging to the Piperaceae family, which includes pepper and kava. Betel leaf is mostly consumed in Asia, and elsewhere in the world by some Asian emigrants, as betel quid or in paan, with Areca nut and/or tobacco.


In Yogyakarta area, the Christmas celebration is filled with wayang kulit performance about the birth of Jesus Christ. The church mass is led by the priest wearing traditional Javanese costume (wearing beskap and blankon) and using the local language. Similarly with Eid celebration, the Christmas time is used to visit friends and family. Some of the kids in Yogyakarta can also get money in an envelope from the elders. [5] [7]

Wayang kulit form of Indonesian puppet-shadow play

Wayang kulit is a traditional form of puppet-shadow play originally found in the cultures of Java, Bali and Lombok in Indonesia. In a wayang kulit performance, the puppet figures are rear-projected on a taut linen screen with a coconut-oil light. The dalang manipulates carved leather figures between the lamp and the screen to bring the shadows to life.

Eid al-Fitr, also called the "Festival of Breaking the Fast", is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting (ṣawm). This religious Eid is the first and only day in the month of Shawwal during which Muslims are not permitted to fast. The holiday celebrates the conclusion of the 29 or 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the entire month of Ramadan. The day of Eid, therefore, falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal. The date for the start of any lunar Hijri month varies based on when the new moon is sighted by local religious authorities, so the exact day of celebration varies by locality.


The pre-Christmas celebrations in Manado start from 1 December when the regional government officers go on the "Christmas Safari" – observe the mass in a different district every day. Some people in Manado have a tradition to join a carnival or visit and clean their families' graves. The series of Christmas celebrations will be ended in the first week of January with a festival called kunci taon. In this festival, there will be a carnival across the region in unique costumes. [5] [7]

Carnival festive season which occurs immediately before Lent

Carnival is a Western Christian festive season that occurs before the liturgical season of Lent. The main events typically occur during February or early March, during the period historically known as Shrovetide. Carnival typically involves public celebrations, including events such as parades, public street parties and other entertainments, combining some elements of a circus. Elaborate costumes and masks allow people to set aside their everyday individuality and experience a heightened sense of social unity. Participants often indulge in excessive consumption of alcohol, meat, and other foods that will be forgone during upcoming Lent. Traditionally, butter, milk, and other animal products were not consumed "excessively", rather, their stock was fully consumed as to reduce waste. Pancakes, donuts, and other desserts were prepared and eaten for a final time. During Lent, animal products are no longer eaten, and individuals have the ability to give up a certain object or activity of desire.


Penjor as street decorations for Christmas in Bali Around Lovina, penjors (6826842846).jpg
Penjor as street decorations for Christmas in Bali

Most of Christian villages in Bali are located on the south of this island. In those villages, road decorations called penjor (made from yellow coconut leaves) will be made for Christmas, which symbolises Anantaboga dragon. The Christmas celebration is affected by Hinduism – Balinese culture. [8]

Balinese Hinduism Form of Hinduism practiced in Bali

Balinese Hinduism is the form of Hinduism practiced by the majority of the population of Bali. This is particularly associated with the Balinese people residing on the island, and represents a distinct form of Hindu worship incorporating local animism, ancestor worship or Pitru Paksha, and reverence for Buddhist saints or Bodhisattava.

In Bali, the Christmas tree is made from chicken feathers. This unique tree has been imported to some European countries. [9]


Torajan people celebrate Christmas by having a cultural festival called Lovely December. This festival consists of mass dancing, a culinary festival, cultural carnival, bamboo music performance, and handicraft exhibition. The festival is ended by fireworks and Lettoan procession which is held on 26 December. [5] [10] Lettoan is a ritual of having pig parade with cultural symbols that represent three dimensions of human life. Those three symbols are:

North Sumatera

Bataknese Babi panggang, it usually serves as main course in Christmas Batak Cuisine Saksang and Panggang 1.JPG
Bataknese Babi panggang, it usually serves as main course in Christmas

For the Batak in North Sumatera, the Christmas Day is always followed by sacrificing an animal as a result of people chipping in and saving the money months before. This tradition is called marbinda and shows togetherness and mutual cooperation. The sacrificed animal can be a pig, a buffalo, or an ox, and the meat will be shared to all the people that participate in the purchasing of the animal. [5] [12]

National Christmas Celebration

Every year, Ministry of Religious Affairs holds the National Christmas Celebration of the Republic of Indonesia. The program started in 1993 as a suggestion from Tiopan Bernhard Silalahi, who was Minister of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform in the Sixth Development Cabinet, who has Protestant background, to the then President of Indonesia Soeharto. [13] Since that, National Christmas Celebration has been held every year, except in 2004, which was canceled as a condolence for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and in 2018. [14] Until 2013, National Christmas Celebration was always held in Jakarta, the most common used venue was Jakarta Convention Center. [13] But since 2014, the tradition was changed by the newly-elected President of Indonesia Joko Widodo. [15] This is the list of National Christmas Celebration hosts since 2014:

2014 Jayapura City [16] Papua 27 December 2014For the first time National Christmas Celebration was held outside Jakarta Special Capital Region
2015 Kupang City [17] East Nusa Tenggara 28 December 2015
2016 Minahasa Regency [18] North Sulawesi 27 December 2016For the first time National Christmas Celebration was held in a regency
2017 Pontianak City [19] West Kalimantan 28 December 2017For the first time outside the capital of Indonesia, National Christmas Celebration will be held in a province and a city whose majority of population are not Christians

See also

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  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Unique Indonesian Traditions for Celebrating Christmas, – Rina Atmasari. 25 December 2013. Diakses pada 15 December 2014.
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  7. 1 2 3 (in Indonesian) Tradisi Natal di Indonesia Archived 20 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine , Muna Zakiah: – 20 December 2013. Diakses pada 16 December 2014.
  8. Balinese Christians: In Search of Tradition, Benito Lopulalan in Bali Today: Modernity by Jean Couteau et al. Page 111-115. 2005. Jakarta: KPG (Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia). Diakses pada 16 December 2014.
  9. (in Indonesian) Uniknya Pohon Natal dari Bulu Ayam Archived 15 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine , Ely – Ciputra Entrepreneurship. 19 December 2011. Diakses pada 15 December 2014.
  10. Tana Toraja Festival held on Dec. 25 to boost tourism, The Jakarta Post. 22 December 2011. Diakses pada 16 December 2014.
  11. (in Indonesian) "Lettoan" Meriahkan "Lovely December" Toraja, Aditia Maruli. – 27 December 2009. Diakses pada 16 December 2014.
  12. (in Indonesian) Rayakan Natal, Masyarakat Batak Juga Sembelih Hewan Archived 16 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine , Diakses pada 16 December 2014.
  13. 1 2 (in Indonesian) Sejarah Perayaan Natal Nasional Republik Indonesia on YouTube Diakses pada 5 Desember 2017.
  14. (in Indonesian) Umat Kristen Prihatin, Perayaan Natal Nasional Dibatalkan. 29 Desember 2004. Diakses pada 5 Desember 2017.
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  16. (in Indonesian) Pidato Presiden Joko Widodo Pada Perayaan Natal Bersama Nasional 2014, di Stadion Mandala, Jayapura, Papua, 27 Desember 2014
  17. (in Indonesian) Ribuan Umat Kristiani Hadiri Perayaan Natal Nasional di Kupang
  18. (in Indonesian) Warga Minahasa Antusias Hadiri Natal Nasional 2016
  19. (in Indonesian) Perayaan Natal Nasional 2017 Dipusatkan di Pontianak dan Dihadiri Presiden Joko Widodo