More than 24 million people in Indonesia celebrate Christmas. The joyful holiday is always anticipated by the Christians in Indonesia. There are some influences from the West that affect the Christmas customs in the country. Nevertheless, most people still rely on their local tradition to celebrate it. To know how the people celebrate it, read these 20 Interesting Christmas Customs in Indonesia. See how Indonesians prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ.
1. Decorating Christmas Trees
When December comes, Indonesians will start to unpack their old plastic trees. They put their tree up again in their homes with various things on the branches. Most of the time, the decorations include angels, baubles, fake snow and stars. People would also add lights around the tree that twinkle in many colours. Homes are not the only places where you will find a Christmas tree. Shopping malls and offices put them up too.
2. Putting Up Decorations in Various Buildings
Public places and buildings get decorated too. In the event of welcoming the festive season, people often decorate the spaces with many things. There could be wreaths with bells hanging on walls or doors. Twinkle lights are placed to light up the buildings too. Store employees would also wear costumes such as santa hats.
3. Christmas Carols
Christmas carols are loved by many. Choirs would sing a set of many Christmas songs. They would sing in church or public places such as the malls. All kinds of people like to listen to them singing in public places. The Christmas carols make lift up the mood and make everyone more excited about Christmas in Indonesia.
4. Wishing Merry Christmas
It’s a custom for some people to wish a merry Christmas to the Christians who celebrate it. Indonesians value their diversity and unity. By also wishing a merry Christmas, it means that nobody is left out in Indonesia. People often give their wishes in person during the holiday. However some say it through messaging applications on their phones. Indonesians often say “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”.
5. Baking Christmas Cookies
People bake all sorts of Christmas cookies in Indonesia. These cookies are enjoyed by friends and family celebrating the holiday. Some of the popular cookies are Speculaas Almond, Snow White Cookies and Kastengel. Those cookies are also considered as traditional cookies in Indonesia. You may want to learn more about the facts about Christmas in Indonesia.
6. Christmas Feast
Christians in Indonesia will often have a Christmas feast. They will eat food together with their family members. The most popular food for the Christmas feast is pork. More specifically, it is a soy sauce pork. However, in case they are inviting some of their Muslim friends or family members to the feast, they will also prepare food that have no pork in it. That way, Christmas can still be celebrated by everyone at the table. Besides holding a Christmas feast at home, people also eat at various restaurants in the city.
7. Church Service
Surrounding the Christmas days, churches in Indonesia hold not one but multiple services to celebrate it. Christians are enthusiastic when it’s Christmas time. They come to the services and often times, the churches become very full. People may even have to sit outside the church for the service. Most churches will provide extra chairs and tent tops to give them shade from the sun or the rain. The services are often conducted in Indonesian Language, English or even in the local language. It all depends on the region.
8. Nativity Play
Christian schools and churches may hold nativity play that young children can participate in. The play is about recreating the moment when Jesus was born. Children would dress up in costumes and perform the play in front of their teachers and parents. During the play, the children will also sing some Christmas songs.
9. Sunday School Santa
Some Sunday schools in Indonesia will have Santa to come and meet the children. The santa is usually their own teacher which has the most similar characteristics with they typical Santa in stories. The children are always excited to meet Santa. He comes bearing small gifts to the children in the school.
10. Music Concerts
Music concerts are held throughout the whole month of December. However the peak event is around the 25th of December. Various music concerts take place in many cities of Indonesia. Other than providing entertainment to the people, the main goal is to spread love among the communities. They also aim to spread kindness and the Christmas spirit to the audience. The music concerts may even help to fund money for charity or other purposes that can help those in needs. People can watch the concerts from home too because some TV stations will broadcast the events.
11. Cleaning the Nation Ritual
A unique Christmas custom in Indonesia is called the “nation cleaning” ritual. It is carried out in Ambon. The ritual is meant to give people their freedom from their sins. Moreover the ritual is also about purifying their surrounding environment. Both men and women carry out the ritual. They would walk around their neighbourhood to sing, dance and perform traditional music of Indonesia. The women would bring food and traditional drinks as offerings.
Barapen is another unique costume that people in Papua do to celebrate Christmas. They gather stones to grill pork. This is usually done after people are coming home after the Christmas service. The men in Papua will prepare and heat up the stones. As for the women, they prepare the side dishes to be eaten with the pork. Barapen is a feast that is intended to unite everyone during and also a reminder to stay grateful.
13. Lighting Candles
Christians would light up candles to welcome Christmas. The candles are light up at their homes. Most church services would also give out candles to the attendees to hold. The candles represent Jesus as the “light of the world”. They also add more Christmas spirit during the celebration.
14. Sacrificing an Animal
Sacrificing an animal is often carried out in the Northern part of Sumatra. An animal is prepared to be sacrificed for Christmas. People from surrounding neighbourhoods would collect money to buy the animal. The animal that is sacrificed could be a pig, a buffalo, a cow or a pig. The meat is then distributed to everyone that has donated to the funding. Those who are poor will also get a share of the meat. Sacrificing the animal is used to remind people to stay united and always help those in needs.
15. Giving Out Hampers
Giving out Christmas hampers is a very popular custom in Indonesia. Families, companies or individuals would buy hampers. They are then given out to people to celebrate Christmas. Inside the hampers are cookies, chocolate, nuts, biscuits and syrups. Hampers can be customised and ordered at stores. Some may even have Christmas cards to accompany the hampers.
You can read other Christmas customs in Indonesia below.
- Christmas Music: Christmas songs and music are always played in public spaces throughout December.
- Bamboo Fire Crackers: This is done in Flores. The bamboo fire crackers are light up at Christmas and it can be heard from afar.
- Taking Pictures with Santa: Children and adults can take turns to have their pictures taken with Santa in malls.
- Exchanging Gifts: People like to exchange gifts with friends and family members.
- Holding Charity: Charity events are held to help fund money for those in needs, regardless of their religion.
The whole month of December is filled with Christmas atmosphere and activities in Indonesia. People set aside their differences and celebrate with respect.