Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. But not that many people know that it officially recognizes 6 religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestanism, Confucianism, and of course Islam.
With Catholics and Christians making up about 10% of the total population, Christmas in Indonesia is always a more subdued experience. Simply because… well, those who celebrate Christmas only make up a small percentage of the whole population.
Some malls would put up Christmas trees.
Some employees (usually working for stores/hotels that are part of an international chain) would wear Santa hats.
People don’t talk about how they’re almost done with their Christmas shopping (or how far behind they are).
Store employees don’t yell out , ‘Happy holidays!’ or ‘Merry Christmas!’ as you leave.
Not to mention the hot, tropical, soooo un-Christmas like weather.
My family’s not big on Christmas. No family gatherings planned. No Christmas dinner menu hashed out. So it’s even harder to notice that Christmas is just around the corner.
One big difference I noticed is that Christmas here is truly a religious holiday. Those who care about Christmas enough to buy presents and put up Christmas trees in their houses will most likely attend Christmas mass.
And thanks to years of upbringing in a Catholic school, to a lot of my old school friends the idea of NOT going to mass on Christmas day is unthinkable.
Even if it’s the only time of the year they find themselves inside a church.
I’m sure in pockets of Christian community there’s more of the Christmas spirit in the air. As a matter of fact, the hotel that we stayed in in Jogjakarta played Christmas songs in the hallways. So, that was nice. But it was more an exception than the rule. Traveling in Jakarta and along Java, it had been easy to forget that Christmas was only a couple of days away.
It almost makes me wish for a much more commercialized Christmas we’re used to in California.
How we’ll be spending Christmas day
We’ll be spending Christmas driving back from Cirebon to Jakarta. It’s going to be a long drive. So, that kinda sucks, but at least I’ll be spending it my family which is something I don’t get to do very often. And because of that, despite the not-quite Christmas atmosphere, despite being on the road on Christmas day and all that, this year’s Christmas is a special one for me. 🙂