Even though Indonesia is predominantly a Muslim country, religious freedom is stipulated in the constitution. Christians, which make up almost ten percent of Indonesian population, meaning that there will be about 25 million people commemorating Easter.
Christians in Indonesia have the same core of faith to the holy bible but they tend to celebrate/commemorate religious holiday in a unique way, according to their local cultures. This acculturation happens in almost all religion and can be seen anywhere in the country. Anyway, here are some of unique Easter traditions you can find in Indonesia.
In the town of Larantuka in Flores Island, Easter is celebrated in a rather extravagantly during the week. Semana Santa, also known as Holy Week, actually only lasts five days long. It starts with Rabu Trewa (Ash Wednesday) where congregations pray and remember the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot. The congregation then mourn and to purify their soul and effectively make larantuka into a Town of Mourning.
The celebration continues on Maundy Thursday by preparing candles along the road. On the Good Friday (Sesta Vera), the day of crucifixion, the statue of Jesus is carried and placed next to the statue of Mother Mary. The following two days (Sabtu Santo and Minggu Paskah) marks the end of the festivity.
Kure is celebrated by the community of Kote that live in the town of Noemuti, East Nusa Tenggara. In Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, townspeople walk from one house to another to pray and reflect on the passion of Jesus Christ. They also clean crucifixes and reenact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. At the end of the ritual, they give offerings of fruit, vegetables, money, and palm dedicated to God.
Visiting the Cave of Holy Mary Sendangsono
Often considered as the Lourdes of Indonesia, The Cave of Holy Mary Sendangsono Cave is a very popular pilgrimage in Java. The spring water here is considered sacred by Christian devotees, the same water used by Romo Van Lith to baptize Kalibawang residents in 1904. The improvement is also remarkable, designed by the famous Romo YB Mangunwijoyo.
Memento Mori Palangkaraya
Christian communities in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan choose to get close to their loved ones, including those who have passed away. Easter means memento mori in Palangkaraya. Families gather at the graves of loved ones to clean them, light candles, and arrange flowers. This ritual is done at night until dawn. Apart from having great family time, this ritual also serves as a reminder that life is not permanent on earth.
Jalan Salib Gunung Gandul
This is a reenactment of Jesus Crist crucifixion in Golgotha. This is a rather big congregation with hundreds of devotees march for about 3 kilometers to the top of the hill in Gunung Gandul. The chant prayers and all immersed in the journey. This place is always crowded during Easter. You can see an actor in his role as Jesus bearing a wooden crucifix.
Easter in Indonesia, just like in any other part of the world, is a festive time. Christians celebrate and commemorate this occasion in unique ways, mostly influenced by their original culture. Next