Learning About Indonesian Culture
Indonesia has many aspects in its culture. It also has very interesting geography. Cultural aspects of Indonesia include the diligent people and variety in crafts and arts.
First, Indonesia’s geography has a large tie with reasons for Indonesia’s great social diversity and variety in culture. Different regions on Indonesia have different connections with the outside world, affecting their openness to other further adapted countries and cultures. Indonesia is located between the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean. It is located in Southeast Asia. It hugs the equator, keeping the climate almost entirely tropical and even year-round.
Secondly, the people of Indonesia work very hard to make a living. Laborious work is often paid ill, sometimes less than a dollar a day. Vendors on the streets sell great creations such as artworks of clay or paints. For example, basketry is a fine art that requires knowledge or traditional weaving skills, but is sold very cheaply. Some people have amazing skills in such areas of the arts, but cannot afford to begin their business with the cost of supplies. People like Ann Dunham, who specialized in anthropology, help the hard-working people of Indonesia get credits in order to get money to start their own work.
Thirdly, the people of Indonesia have great ties with the arts. Indian cultured crafts such as baskets, paintings and clay-works are the careers of many locals. The extraordinary craft forms of the Indonesians cultures include exotic details put into their work. Traditional patterns and prints are often dyed into blankets and sheets. The patterning on sheets is made through a very long process. First, wax is applied to the areas where the dye will not be applied. Then the sheet is dyed. Wax is again added to the sheet where dye is not wanted, and it is dyed with a different color. The pattern continues likewise. The results are beautifully exotic, rich and detailed fabrics.
Traditional Celebrations in Indonesia
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Traditional Celebrations in Indonesia
Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago. Archipelago is a large group of islands. Indonesia is composed of more than 17, 000 islands. West Indonesian Time zone, East Indonesian Time Zone, and East Indonesian Time Zone are the three climate zones in Indonesia. Indonesia is geographically located between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Its area is slightly less than three times the state of Texas. Indonesia borders East Timor, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea. The climates in this country are tropical humid and tends to be more moderate in the highlands. Petroleum, natural gas, nickel, timber, bauxite, copper, fertile soil, gold, and silver are Indonesia’s natural resources. There are occasional floods, severe droughts, earthquakes, and volcanoes that occur every so often. Indonesia’s population is 205,000,000 people and 88% of the population is Muslim. Javanese is the main language. The capital of Indonesia is Jakarta. Indonesians have many brilliant ways of celebrating certain celebrations. I am going to be writing about celebrations in Indonesia such as: Indonesian’s Independence Day, a Traditional Wedding Ceremony, the Seventh Month of Pregnancy, and Ramadan.
August 17, 1945 is the date on which the Indonesians proclaimed their Independence. “The Indonesians fought and earned independence after more than 300 years under the Dutch occupation and followed by the Japanese occupation”(“Indonesian Independence Day” 1). Ever since this date, Indonesia celebrates their independence on the 17th day of August. This is just like the United States of America celebrating our independence on the Fourth of July of every year.
Preparations for this holiday begin long before the actual celebration occurs. These preparations begin weeks before August 17th. Banners are hung all over. The banners consist of red and white colors. Red and white decorations are scattered all over and the words Long Live Indonesia can be seen almost everywhere. Indonesians use red and white for their banners because these are the colors of their flag. Indonesia’s flag has two horizontal stripes. The first stripe on the top is red. Red represents human blood and the white strip on the bottom symbolize the human spirit. Special activities are prepared for all of the neighborhood children. The schools also hold games and contests amongst the classes to see which class can decorate in the most patriotic manner. Musical selections are also held before and after Independence Day. A clean up day is usually held before the 17th to clean the streets, clean the gutters, and anything else that appears dirty.
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The celebration on August 17th starts out with the hoisting of the flag at the National palace. This flag hoisting is televised live. Great respect and honor towards the country’s flag is shown during the flag hoisting. The President and the Vice President lead the ceremonies (“Indonesia’s Independence Day”2). High school students are chosen for their marching skills and show off their amazing marching steps and turns before hoisting the flag. The military is also there with their best uniforms. While these ceremonies are taking place, the neighborhoods are getting ready for plenty more fun and games for the kids and the women are busy cooking krupuk. Krupuk are shrimp chips that are used for eating contests. One of the most popular games held is the Panjat Pinang. In this game a palm trunk is erected in public and it is well greased with clay and oil. At the top of the tree are prizes such as bikes and TVs. Whoever makes it to the top wins whatever prize there is. After this day of events there is a parade held the next day in Jakarta.
Traditional Wedding Ceremony
According to Joglosemar, Pemaes are hired women who help make up the bride and are in charge of all the ceremonies (1). Pamae is simply another word for Javanese traditional bridal beauticians. The bride is made up with a traditional make up. Her hair is specially put in an up do. The bride is also covered with golden jewelry. The bride and the groom are treated as king and queen in the wedding party. The bride’s parents play a major role in this special celebration. The happy party takes place in the bride’s parent’s house. The bride’s parents also organize the wedding. The gate of the house is always decorated with plants and leaves that are symbolic. Reddish sugar cane means that the couple will build their family whole-heartedly. Young yellow coconuts mean that the couple love each other and will always take care of each other no matter what. Ornaments made from coconut leaves must be placed on top of the gate. This drives out evil spirits and shows that a wedding ceremony is taking place. When all the decoration has taken place and the bride and groom are in their best dress it is time for the bride and groom to meet. The bridegroom arrives at his bride’s parent’s house with his close relatives. Two elderly women lead out the bride to the bridal room. A gift is then presented to the mother of the bride in appreciation for being the hostess.
The ritual of the Wiji Dadi is the next event in the couple’s ceremony. The bridegroom crushes an egg with his right foot. The bride then washes her bridegroom’s foot with a mixture of water and flowers. This symbolizes that the bridegroom is ready to be responsible and the bride is ready to be faithful to her husband.
The next ritual that goes on is the feeding of the bride and the groom. This is called Dahar Kembul. The couple starts out buy drinking sweet tea. Then the bride eats first. After the bride eats, the bridegroom eats his food as well. This ritual represents the fact that the couple needs to learn to use and enjoy what they have together.
The ritual of Sugkeman is where the couple receives their blessing. The couple starts out by asking a blessing from their parents. First they ask a blessing from the bride’s parents and then they go on and ask a blessing from the bridegroom’s parents. The couple must kneel before they ask the blessing.
When the asking of the blessing is finished, it is now time for the father of the bride to give his approval of the couple’s marriage. The bride and the bridegroom sit on the bride’s father’s lap. The father would then say that they have equal weight. This means that the father of the bride loves the bride and the bridegroom both the same. After the father of the bride says this, he then seats the bride and the bridegroom in the wedding chair. All this is done to show that the father of the bride approves of the couple’s marriage. The wedding rings are exchanged and the couple becomes one.
Finally the reception begins. The reception consists of the newly weds receive blessings from the guests by shaking hands. During the reception another bridal procession enters the room and two dances are usually performed. These dances are usually love dances. After all is done the couple will go on living their married lives. You should not expect to get a thank you if you are a guest at an Indonesian wedding. Often when you arrive at a wedding, someone will greet you with a token and on this token there will be a little note saying thank you. Also if you are invited to a wedding in Indonesia, your attendance is highly appreciated. It shows that you have respect for the newlyweds.
Seventh Month of Pregnancy
Mitoni is what the Indonesians call the ritual of the seventh month of a woman’s pregnancy. Indonesians hold this as a very special ritual. Mitoni comes from the word pitu, which means seven. This traditional ritual is mainly asking blessings for the safety of the soon to be parents of the unborn baby. This ritual consists of four steps. First of all it starts out with the holy bathing. This is called the Siraman. This Siraman can take place in the backyard of someone’s house. The space where this takes place is beautifully arranged. There is a golden bowl filled with water and a mixture of flowers. The water is considered to be holy and from the seven springs. The parents to be do not wear any accessories. The grand father of the baby bathes the couple first. After the grandfather is finished bathing the couple, the grandmother of the baby proceeds to bath the soon-to-be parents. Several elderly ladies perform blessings as well. The wife has more rituals to go through than the husband does. After the bathing of the parents, the father gets dressed and the mother goes on to more rituals. The soon-to-be mother is then dressed up by elderly ladies. The clothing that the pregnant mother is dressed in symbolizes wishes for the mother and the father and their baby. Then the soon- to-be parents go through a ritual called Angrem. Angrem is a Javanese word that means the hatching of eggs. Together the couple sits on a batik cloth. This represents that they are sitting on eggs. The Angrem ritual signifies that the baby will arrive safely and on time.
Ramadan lands on the ninth month of the lunar calendar year. The lunar calendar is eleven days shorter than the calendar we Americans go by. Each month begins on the sight of the moon. Therefore holidays and celebrations do not land on the same date of every year. The Muslim populations in Indonesia and also Muslims all over the world celebrate Ramadan. The Muslims celebrate Ramadan because they believe that during this month a long time ago Allah gave out the first verses of the Qur’an to the Islam. Jibrin Abubakar says that, “Ramadan signifies the month that the Qur’an was revealed and there in lies the Night of Power which is greater than one thousand months”(1).The Ramadan can be known as the month of giving as well.
Jibrin Abubakar states, “Fasting is as old as man himself but only few perhaps have come to understand its significance(1).” “The Ramadan is also said to be a period when devils are kept under key and lock so that they may not temp men of God and others” (Abubakar 1).
During this month, people from the age of twelve and up involve themselves in fasting. Alicia Eames recalls that:
Magid, who was almost eight, didn’t understand why he could not fast for the Ramadan. His mother agreed to let him miss breakfast, but the boy extended his fast by feeding his lunch to the geese. Eventually, the child’s deception is discovered and he had to face his parents’ disappointment. (1)
Preparation for this celebration involves people rushing to pile up on all kinds of food and beverages. “Often leaving shop shelves empty by the early afternoon. This prompts the shop keepers to raise their prices.” (Abdallah 3). “Muna Khalil, who is a housewife and a mother of four, claims she could not find chicken unless she ordered it one or two days ahead of time”(3). It gets very frustrating to get what they need on time. Traffic jams last at least three hours. These traffic jams make getting everything you need on time even more frustrating and stressful.
If you are elderly people, children who have not yet reached puberty, people traveling further that 50 miles, ill people, and pregnant women are exempt from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. These people are exempt because Ramadan is a very hard time for your body and people who do not have the strength at that time need not endure the fast. This shows that fasting during the Ramadan is not completely forced on everybody.
Many Muslims become diabetic due to this fasting so they have to take some precautions. “During Ramadan it is important that people take some precautions and pay close attention to meal planning, monitoring their blood glucose levels, and balancing insulin dosage with food intake and physical activity. Night prayers offered during the Ramadan have been reported to increase calorie expenditure”(Taylor and Aslam 2-3). Diabetes is a major health concern for Muslims who fast. “It is estimated that five to ten percent of patients with diabetes develop foot ulceration and that about one percent will require amputation. Patients may delay consulting a nurse during Ramadan and may remove dressing from wounds with out medical assistance in order to carry out ritual washing prior to prayers”(3).
If a woman who is pregnant fasts during Ramadan she is putting her baby and herself in great danger. There is a fourteen percent chance fetal loss and many maternal complications. According to Nurses Taylor and Aslam, “If a patient suffers from low blood sugar while pregnant then the unborn child will also have low blood sugar. This could expose the child to a higher risk of having impaired brain development and can cause faintness in the expectant mother” (3). “In the Journal of Ramadan Fasting Research, it is recommended that: ‘to be healthy one must consume food from the major food groups: bread and cereal, milk and dairy products, meat and beans, vegetables and fruits’"(Abubakar 3).It is also known that the metabolism rate of a person who involves himself in this fasting slows way down. Body and dietary fat is efficiently put to great use. Getting the right amounts of nutrients is hard to accomplish when fasting during the Ramadan. Everyday the fasting is over at sunset and starts back up again at sunrise. Sohour is the traditional meal after midnight. Ramadan participants tend to eat through out the night watching soap operas on the many satellite channels.
Before the Ramadan fasting begins, some Muslims will “munch on boiled beans and lupine, and smoke the night away before starting a new fasting day at dawn”(Abdallah 1).According to Sana Abdallah, “ the more devout who take the holy month seriously read verses out of the holy Koran everyday until completed by the end of the month. After the completion of reading the Koran, they go straight to the mosques for Muslim prayers”(2).
“The period of Ramadan enjoins Muslims to fast for spiritual discipline in order to draw them closer to Allah and also to engender peace, love, and understanding amongst man kind”(“The Importance of Ramadan”1).Also, this is a time for devotion to their god, body cleansing, and thinking of all the poor who are starving.
Umar Muhammad Shehu states that:
For a whole month every year, a Muslim trains himself to avoid essential physical desires for a considerable amount of time every day. He also avoids insulting or fighting anybody, even if he is attacked. What is required is for one to be always calm and be conscious of Allah as a constant watcher over him and strive in the best manner possible to please his creator through out the month.(4)
The Ramadan is then finished with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr. This means the celebration of not having to fast anymore. Muslims will present themselves in their finest dress. They will enjoy themselves while visiting with friends and family. They also take time to contribute to the mosque and share their blessings with the poor.
In conclusion, Indonesia seems to value there family, religious beliefs, and their countries independence. From looking at these holidays that was talked about earlier, Indonesia has many fun and colorful holiday traditions. Independence Day is full of food, games, and red and white all over. The Seventh Month of a Pregnant Woman shows how much marriage, family, and the arrival of a new baby is valued. A wedding ceremony again shows how important marriage is to this culture and country. Ramadan is a holiday tradition for Muslims in Indonesia. Ramadan is celebrated by fasting and taking time to consider love, happiness, prayer, and thinking about the poor.
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