There are great festivals in Indonesia that you must see since it is a diverse country rich in origins and religions. No wonder that Indonesia has a great mix of cultural events, ceremonies and festivals. Come and experience the diverse Indonesian festivals all year round, as you will never be short of choices.
With a population of more than 230 million people, even the minority people will have large enough squad for their celebrations. Here, you can find religious ceremonies from Muslims, and then Buddhist, Christians and the rest of more local festivals, or arts and cultural events. Some of them are celebrated by the nation while most unique to specific local areas or regions.
Here are the great festivals in Indonesia you must see during your visit:
Comprising a large percentage of people who are Muslims, about 86% of its population, Ramadan is celebrated widely here all across Indonesia. As the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan is when the Muslims will fast during the day for a whole month. Ramadan celebration month is based on the Islamic calendar, therefore it changes every year.
Following the fasting month, the Muslims will end it with the greatest celebration for three consecutive days.
This is when the Muslims commemorate the birth of Prophet Muhammad, with a week-long festival of gamelan performances and parade of floats performed in Yogyakarta.
4. Independence/National day
The Indonesians celebrate their Independence day on 17th of August, and this date becomes their biggest national festival. Usually, there will be a grand parade before the President in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. There will be flag ceremony performed in Istana Negara, Jakarta and in the whole parts of the country. Also, there are some events to celebrate it.
Despite its being only 8% of the population who are Christians, it still covers a significant amount of people. Thus, it still becomes a popular festival and a national holiday in December. Here, you will still find common Christmas celebrations of markets and shops selling gifts and accessories while many places organize parties and celebrations.
Nyepi, literally means Day of Silence. It is the Balinese New Year day commemorated every Isaawarsa (Saka new year) based on Balinese calendar, therefore, it changes every year but it generally happens in March. On this day, you will find almost everything is closed in Bali since this is a day of fasting and meditation. However, days prior to the ceremony, you will see the native people of Bali scrubbing clean the statues of Gods, praying, holding ceremonies and other various rituals.
7. Toraja Funeral Ceremony
At Tana Toraja, you may observe their very well-known Toraja Funeral Ceremony. Toraja people who live in the highlands of South Sulawesi establish fascination funeral rites to send the spirit of the dead to the after-world. It is performed in order to prevent misfortune on the deceased family. Usually, this ceremony is held between July to September when Toraja people from all over Indonesia will return to celebrate these annual funeral rituals.
8. Baliem Valley Festival
This unique Baliem Valley festival is only dedicated to the native people of Papua, tracing the root of their belief. Held collaboratively by various local tribes, the war is not a just a conflict but also a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Celebrated every August, the main event is a mock-war between the local tribes, with more than 20 different tribes, each with 30-50 people, clad in traditional clothes and fighting gears. There are also some other performances and attractions of local traditional games, dances and local food showcase. It is a truly rich and unique celebration of indigenous culture in Baliem Valley.
9. Kesodo (Kasada) Ceremony
Hundreds thousands of Tenggerese will gather at the grandeur Mount Bromo, an active volcano in East Java, in August. They perform a ceremony in order to ask for blessings and another year free of eruptions and plagues. The people will present a bunch of offerings of rice, vegetables, fruits, animals and other local crops to the God of the Mountain.
In February or March, Pasola will be celebrated in different parts of all over East Nusa Tenggara. Annually, there will be an announcement on where and when the celebration will be held. In fact, it is one of the most exciting Jousting Festival, well known around the globe, where people on horseback without saddles will throw spears (known as hola) to each other to unseat the opponent. This is a traditional Sumba ritual sport to make the spirits happy and to bring a good harvest for the living people.
11. Waisak (Vesak)
This is a commemoration of the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha, the Indonesian Buddhist. You can see this special day celebration sometime during the full moon of May/June. During Waisak in Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world, Waisak will be splendidly celebrated by thousands of monks and pilgrims. Centered at the three Buddhist temples is the ceremony of walking from Mendut temple to Pawon temple ending at Borobudur.
This is an important Hindu festival celebrated in Bali to welcome the gods and the ancestral spirits to dwell in their descendants homes. During this festival, Hindus will expect to expel all the evil spirits with spells and firecrackers. They will also express their gratitude to their Gods by inviting them down to earth by celebrations of offerings, dancing and new clothes.
Specific Places of Indonesian Festivals:
- Jalan Jaksa Festival
At the capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta, you may at least find one festival worth a visit. It usually takes place in July/August, where you can find the street closed to all traffic and replaced with food stalls, craft workshops, street artists, and musicians. During the festival, you can try diverse kinds of Indonesian foods while getting immersed with the rest of the art shows like traditional martial art combats or Betawi orchestra. You may even find batik making workshops in amidst all of the festive.
- Festival Teluk Kendari
In April, there will be parties and dragon-boat races in Sulawesis Kendari Bay.
- Bidar Race
In August, you can find a lot of vivid bidar (canoes) races in Sumatras Musi river.
- Bali Arts Festival
It is the largest annual celebration of arts and cultures in Indonesia, with a full month (between June —July) of daily performances, arts exhibitions, dances, foods and other cultural offerings. It is important to book a cheap Bali hotel a couple of months before this festival since they will increase their rates a few weeks to a month before.
- Yogya (Jogja) Arts Festival
In June — July, you will find diverse shows and exhibitions in Javas cultural city of Yogyakarta.
- Krakatoa festival
This annual festival is held in Lampung to celebrate the volcanic island called Krakatoa. You can watch some performances, elephant procession and various dances in the town with the finale of the event is a trip to the active volcanic island itself.
- Bau Nyale Fishing Festival
In February or March, hundreds of people will hurriedly go to Lombok to catch a glimpse of the first nyale (worm-like fish) at the huge fishing festival. The indigenous Sasak tribe people of Lombok will celebrate a mythical princess who drowned herself in these waters to escape a politically arranged marriage. Most of all, this festival is performed at the same time with the season of these worm-like fish, when they are caught and eaten roasted in banana leaves with much enthusiasm.
Those great festivals in Indonesia you must see will certainly color your holiday in this beautiful country. They are also parts of Indonesian treasures you should certainly not miss. So, come to Indonesia to watch those festivals.