Viktorija Panovaite
Indonesian dance

Indonesian holidays

In Indonesia there are many opportunities to enjoy long weekends and holidays as there are 13 national holidays. The government also declares that collective leave should be taken on some days, usually a Monday or Friday, before or after a national holiday in order to create a long weekend.

In Indonesia there are 4 types of holidays: religious, national, international and commemorative. Ones that are designated “red date” (“tanggal merah” – a date that is designated in red on a calendar) signify national holidays when government offices, schools, banks and most businesses are closed.

It was quite confusing in the beginning, sometimes go to shop in week days and see that some of them are closed. Other time – all of them are closed. I didn’t understood how to understand their working hours till I got a desktop calendar from my university where was marked “red dates” and other important celebrations. So I prepared some information about Indonesian holidays and made a calendar which I hope will help you to plan your visits to official institutions or trips in Indonesia.

In Indonesia using 3 calendars:

  • Muslim calendar – Hijri – a lunar calendar, 10-11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. The calendar begins in the year that Mohammad took flight from Mecca to Medina. Each lunar month has 29 days.
  • Gregorian or Roman calendar – used throughout the world, this calendar marks its beginning with the birth of Christ. The year is divided into 12 months, consisting of 30 or 31 days, except for the month of February.
  • Balinese calendar – Saka-Wuku – the Balinese calendar is a combination of Saka, the Hindu solar-lunar year of 12 moons, and the Javanese-Balinese Wuku calendar of 210 days which is divided into weeks. The combination of these two calendars and the many names for the different weeks and days make the Balinese calendar a complicated puzzle to solve. Experts in the field consult special charts and tables to determine days for the various religious festivals and significant days.
    The Balinese calendar is used to determine birthdays (“oton”), anniversaries of temples (“odalan”), and the many festivals and days for things that are so important in the everyday life of the Balinese. It is also used by rural Balinese to determine good days for the planting of crops. The calendar is determined by the phases of the moon, the most important days being each full moon (“purnama”) and new moon (“tilem”).

Religious holidays in Indonesia

The Indonesian government officially recognizes five religions: Islam, Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist and Hindu. As images in other countries, each of these religious communities in Indonesia celebrates events that are important to their faith. Some of these are national holidays, others are not. The Ministry of Religion decides the dates on which religious holidays will be held each year. The following are faith-based holidays that are national holidays (“tanggal merah”) in Indonesia:

Muslim holidays in Indonesia
The dates for many Muslim holidays vary from year to year as they are based on the Islamic or Hijri calendar, which is 10 to 11 days shorter than the Roman calendar.

  • 1st Day of Muharam – Satu Muharam or Tahun Baru Hijrah – Islamic New Year.
    Marks the beginning of the New Year on the Hijri calendar.
  • 12th Day of Rabi-ul-Awal – Maulid Nabi Muhammad – Birth of the Prophet Mohammad.
    Milad-un Nabi or Maulid (Mawlid) is the birthday celebration of the Prophet Mohammad.
  • The month of Rabi’ al-Awal (the First Spring Season) of the Islamic calendar is well known in the entire Muslim world as Shahr al-Mawhid (the Month of Birth) of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet Muhammad was born in the Arabian city of Mecca on the 12th Day of Rabi-ul-Awal or the third month of the Muslim lunar year.
    In Indonesia, Muslims gather to recite special prayers of thanksgiving to Allah for sending the Prophet Muhammad as His messenger. Speeches and lectures are made in mosques and elsewhere about the life and instructions of the Holy Prophet. After prayers, sweets are distributed and perfume may be sprinkled on adherents. It is also a family occasion; people dress up in their best clothing and children receive money or gifts. In some cities in Indonesia, such as Yogyakarta and Solo (Surakarta), believers celebrate the Maulid by conducting parades or carnivals, reciting special prayers and singing holy songs which they called “Barzanzi”. The tradition is called the “Mauludan Festival”. During the festival there are competitions to win food, which the people believe has been blessed by the Prophet.
  • 27th Day of the 7th month – Isra Mi’raj Nabi Muhammad – ascension of the Prophet Mohamma.
  • 1 Syawal – Idul Fitri or Lebaran – end of the Ramadhan fasting month.
    The end of the month of Ramadhan, the Muslim month of fasting. Mass prayers are held in mosques and large open areas around the country. Celebrated with the traditional dish “ketupat” and visiting with family and friends. Charity donations (“amal”) are traditionally given at this time. Just prior to Lebaran a mass exodus (“mudik”) from Jakarta of over 3 million people occurs as residents return to their villages to celebrate with family and friends. Begging of forgiveness for any transgressions or slights in the past year is expressed during visits, “Mohon Maaf Lahir dan Batin”. A Lebaran bonus, THR, is traditionally given to all Muslim staff or employees prior to the holidays. In urban areas “halal-bihalal” (mutual begging of pardon) gatherings are held. This is the time of year when Muslims traditionally buy new clothes.
  • 10th Day of Dzulhijjah – Idul Adha or Lebaran Haji – Muslim Day of Sacrifice.
    Commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son upon God’s command. Falls at the end of the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Mass prayers are held in mosques and large open areas around the country. Animals are sacrificed and the meat is given to the poor.

Christian holidays in Indonesia
Christian holidays fall on the same days as in other countries. The following are national holidays:

  • Dates varies – Wafat Isa Almasih – Good Friday – commemorates the death of Jesus.
  • Dates varies – Hari Paskah – Easter – celebrates the day Jesus arose from the dead.
  • Dates varies – Kenaikan Isa Almasih – ascension of Christ – commemorates the day Jesus ascended into Heaven.
  • 25th of December – Hari Natal – Christmas – celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.

Hindu holidays in Indonesia

  • Dates varies – Hari Raya Galungan – Galungan.
    Celebrates the coming of the Gods and the ancestral spirits to earth to dwell again in the homes of the descendants. The festivities are characterized by offerings, dances and new clothes.
  • Dates varies – Hari Raya Nyepi – Nyepi.
    Hindu Day of Silence or the Hindu New Year in the Balinese Saka calendar. The largest celebrations are held in Bali as well as in Balinese Hindu communities around Indonesia. On New Year’s Eve the villages are cleaned, food is cooked for two days and in the evening as much noise is made as possible to scare away the devils. On the following day, Hindus do not leave their homes, cook or engage in any activity. Streets are deserted, and tourists are not allowed to leave hotel complexes.
    Nyepi is calculated according to the Çaka lunar calendar and falls at the time of the new moon in the months of March or April each year. The coming year will be 1932. The name Nyepi comes from the root word “sepi” meaning quiet or silent. Although it is a national holiday.
    In Bali religion is a very important part of everyday life and the people perform daily offerings to the gods and actively participate in the numerous temple festivals and rituals. Balinese Hindus also make offerings and perform temple rituals to placate demons that they believe personify the destructive forces of nature. On the day before Nyepi major offerings are made to the demons at village crossroads, where evil spirits are believed to loiter. Before every ceremony a cleaning ceremony or “mecaru” must be held to drive out the devils and spiritually clean the place.
    The broadcast facilities in Bali are also shut down for 24 hours from sunrise on Nyepi as a sign of respect for the beliefs of the Balinese people during the 24 hours of absolute silence.

Buddhist holidays in Indonesia

  • Dates varies – Hari Waisak – Waisak Day – date varies according to the Buddhist calendar.
    Commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha. This celebration is enlivened by religious and social activities in Buddhist temples around the country. In Indonesia, the largest Buddhist temples, Candi Mendut and Candi Borobudur are the focus of interest and attract those observing the holiday and tourists.
    Three major historical events are celebrated on Waisak. The 1st is the birth of Siddhartha Gautama. The 2nd is the acceptance of the divine revelation under the Bodhi tree. And the 3rd is the journey of Siddhartha Gautama to heaven. These three big events occur exactly on the Full Moon Purnama Sidhi. Thus, Waisak is also very well known as Tri Suci Waisak or Three Holy Events. Buddhists celebrate Waisak by praying to their God Sang Tri Ratna as thanks giving for creating and maintaining the earth and its resources in harmony. It is very common for Buddhists to celebrate Waisak with the presentation of fruit, flowers and candles. For Buddhists, candles symbolize their philosophy of life, the sought-after enlightenment. Only about 1% of Indonesia’s population is Buddhist the whole country joins in honoring this special Day celebrated by Buddhists in Indonesia.

National holidays:

  • 17th of August – Hari Proklamasi Indonesia – Indonesian Independence Day.
    Indonesians celebrate the proclamation of independence from 350 years of Dutch colonial rule. Festivities abound in cities and villages alike, organized by the government, neighborhood community associations and organizations.

International holidays:

  • 1st of January – Tahun Baru – New Year’s Day.
    New Year’s Eve is celebrated with some revelry in urban areas. Hotels, discos and major restaurants offer special meals, entertainment and dancing.
  • January – February – Imlek – Chinese New Year.
    The Lunar New Year is celebrated by Indonesians of Chinese ancestry. Visiting of family and friends, special dishes and gifts of money (“ampau”) mark the day’s activities. Dragon dances are held and limited outdoor decorations are seen on businesses and homes. Most Chinese merchants close their shops for at least one day and maybe up to a week. The date for Imlek is based on the Chinese lunar calendar. Some of government offices are open for business.

Indonesian official holiday schedule for 2016, 2017:

Indonesian holidays

Other holidays – commemorative days:

In addition to the official holidays, many religious, historical, and other traditional holidays populate the calendar, as well as observances proclaimed by officials and lighter celebrations. These are rarely observed by businesses as holidays.

Indonesian holidays

Information and most of the pictures used from internet sources.
Indonesian holidays
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  • Have you been in Indonesia during one of these holidays?
  • In which Indonesian celebration you would like to participate?
  • Which event you would recommend to visit in any other Asian country?

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4 thoughts on “Indonesian holidays”

  1. Great tables. They provide a quick reference to look up holidays. I love that the government promotes long weekend for the holidays. In corporate America I feel like they unfortunately do not promote any vacation time.

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