Being a diverse country of origins and religions, Indonesia has a good mix of cultural events, ceremonies and festivals. Come and experience the Indonesian festivals all year round, as you can see you will never be short of choices.
Having population of more than 230 million people, even the ‘minorities’ of people will have large enough celebrations. Here you can find for religious events from Muslims, and then Buddhist, Christians and the rest of more local festivals, ceremonies or arts and cultural events, some celebrated by the nation while most unique to local areas or regions.
Having a large percentage of people who are Muslim, approximately 86% of its population, Ramadan is celebrated widely here all across Indonesia. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar where the Muslims will fast during the day for an entire month. The month of celebration is base on the Islamic calendar, therefore changes every year.
Follow from the fasting, the Muslims will end it with a huge celebration for three days following it.
This is when the Muslims commemorate birth of Prophet Muhammad, with week-long festival of gamelan performances and parade of floats.
Independence / National day
The Indonesians will celebrate their Independence day on 17th of August, and this is their biggest national festival. Usually, there will be a grand parade before the President in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.
Despite being only 8% of the population who are Christian, it is still a significant amount of people with it being a popular festival and a national holiday in December. Here you will find usual Christmas celebrations of markets and shops selling gifts and accessories while many places organized party and celebrations.
Nyepi, literally means “Day of Silence, is the day of the Balinese New Year, commemorated every Isaawarsa (Saka new year) base on Balinese calendar, therefore changes every year but generally in March. On this day you will find everything is closed in Bali as it is a day of fasting and meditation. But on days preceding to it, you will see people of Bali scrubbing clean the status on Gods, pray,hold ceremonies and various other rituals. Read more on Nyepi in Bali Festivals.
Toraja Funeral Ceremony
At Tana Toraja, you may observe their famous Toraja Funeral Ceremony. The Toraja people, who lives in the highlands of South Sulawesi, does elaborate and fascination funeral rites to send the spirit of the dead to the after-world in order to prevent misfortune on the deceased family. Usually between July to September, Toraja from all over Indonesia will return to celebrate these annual funeral rituals.
Baliem Valley Festival
This Baliem Valley festival unique only to the Papua people, tracing its root in the belief, held by the various local tribes, that war is not a just a conflict but also a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Celebrated in August, the main event is the mock-war between the local tribes, with more than 20 different tribes, each with 30-50 people, clad in traditional clothing and fighting gears. There are also side performances and attractions of local traditional games, dances and local food showcase. It is a rich and unique celebration in the Baliem Valley of indigenous culture.
Kesodo (Kasada) Ceremony
Hundreds of thousands of Tenggerese will gather at the famous Mount Bromo, an active crater in East Java, Indonesia, during the month of August. In order to ask for blessings and another year free of eruptions, the people will present offerings of rice, vegetables, fruits, animals and other local produces to the God of the Mountain.
During February or March, Pasola will be celebrated in various locations across East Nusa Tenggara. Every year there will be an announcement on where and when the celebration will be held. It is one of the most exciting Jousting Festival, well known around the world, where people on horseback without saddles will throw spears (know as hola) at each other to unseat the opponent. It is a traditional Sumba ritual sport to keep the spirits happy and to bring a good harvest.
In commemoration of the birth, enlightenment and death of the Gautama Buddha, the Indonesian Buddhist will usually observe this special day sometime during the full moon of May / June. During Waisak in Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world, the day will be grandly celebrated by thousands of monks and pilgrims. Centred at the three Buddhist temples is the ceremony of walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur.
This important Hindu festival in Bali, it is celebrated for the coming of the gods and the ancestral spirits to dwell in the home of their descendants. During this festival, Hindus will drive off evil spirits with incantations and firecrackers, while express gratitude to their Gods by inviting them down to earth by celebrations of offerings, dancing and new clothes.
Specific places in Indonesia festivals:
Jalan Jaksa Festival
At the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, you may at least find a 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. You may try food from all kind of Indonesian specialities while immersed in the rest of the art shows like traditional martial art combat or Betawi orchestra. You may also find batik making workshops in the midst of it all.
Festival Teluk Kendari
In April, there will be partying and dragon-boat races in Sulawesi’s Kendari Bay.
In August, you can find lots of vivid bidar (canoes) race in Sumatra’s Sungai Musi.
Bali Arts Festival
Largest annual celebration of art and culture in Indonesia, with a full month (between June-July) of daily performances, arts exhibitions, dances, food and other cultural offerings. Read more about this famous Bali Arts Festival. It is important to search for 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 shows and exhibitions in the Java’s cultural capital Yogyakarta.
This annual festival, held in Lampung, to celebrate the volcanic island called, you guess it, Krakatoa. There will be 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 rush to Lombok to catch a glimpse of the first nyale (worm-like fish) at the huge fishing festival. The indigenous Sasak people of Lombok will commemorate a mythical princess who had to drown in these waters to escape a politically arranged marriage. This festival is done the same time with the season of these worm-like fish, where they are caught and eaten roasted in banana leaves with much enthusiasm.