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Selamat Hari Natal – Merry Christmas from Indonesia!
Winter in the archipelago feels a bit different, with temperatures above 30 C degrees, palm trees, the ocean and tropical vibes. Nevertheless, Indonesia around mid-December is fully exposed to Christmas celebration madness, across the islands. Christians – Indonesians, who make around 10% of the country’s population (what comes to around 20 million people) love to celebrate Christmas on a family and a community levels.

Several Christmas traditions, well-known in Europe is still celebrated in Indonesia. People do tend to decorate a Christmas tree in their homes, even though is usually a plastic or chicken feathers’ one, instead of a usual pine tree.

All Christmas presents, gifted to children are being brought by a Santa Claus, called in Indonesian – Sinterklas (Dutch colonial influence). Santa receives in exchange traditional Christmas cookies. Among the most popular ones, backed especially for this occasion, you can find: nastar – pineapple-filled butter cookies, kastengel – cheese cookies and putri salju – ‘snow white cookies’, covered with powder sugar and cheese.

People take part in a festive mass on the Christmas Eve, bringing to life nativity drama and singing Christmas carols (Malam Kudus – O Holy Night, being among the favorites). Christmas celebrations are broadcasted on the national TV (TVRI), with church choirs’ performances and the most commercial part, like beloved Christmas movies (Home Alone – for life!).

Government’s most important officials take part in Christmas celebrations every year as a confirmation that the country strongly upholds its principle policy of a cross-cultural harmony and religious tolerance between the nations. Christians make the largest religious minority in Indonesia and represent one of the six officially recognized national religions.

Additionally, Christmas is celebrated also as a cultural experience across the archipelago. In Jakarta – country’s capital there is a festive mass organized on a national stadium along with a street paradise with children dressed in Santa Claus costumes. In Yogyakarta, there is a special shadow puppet performance (Wayang Kulit) taking place, telling the story of Christ’s birth. Christians in Bali wear traditional Balinese clothing (kebayas, sashes) in white color and prepare decorations from bamboo and janur. In Papua, there is a special ritual called bakar batu (stone burning) being hold where people cook pork meat together with local agricultural products in fire, to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Another delicious accent of Christmas celebrations in Java Island is a national chocolatiers competition for the best edible Christmas tree. The chocolate statues are after all exhibited to the audience in Jakarta’s shopping malls.

 

Christmas celebrations in Indonesia is a great example that a core spirit of these festivities lies in a cultural tolerance and respect for one another, beyond the religion, origin or ethnicity. Living this experience is something unique for a person from outside the country, also because you can be sure that you will be accepted, protected and taken care of during this special time!
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