7 Unique Ramadan Traditions You Can Only See in Indonesia
As a country with the biggest Muslim population in the world, so Ramadan is the big part of its culture. Ramadan traditions in Indonesia are unique, and each province has its own custom. Some gather with friends and relatives in special events, while others visit places with spiritual significances. Depending on where you visit in Indonesia, you surely will see a lot of interesting events!
Here are 7 unique Ramadan traditions in Indonesia.
Megibung is a Balinese tradition of a communal meal, where a group of people eats together from large-portion dishes. In this tradition, everyone sits together regardless of social background, enjoying foods while having nice chats. Megibung is a part of Balinese Hindu tradition, but Balinese Muslims also adopt this tradition, such as during iftar (the act of breaking the fast in Ramadan) or religious holidays.
If you visit Semarang City in Central Java during Ramadan, don’t forget to witness dugderan. This street festival has been around since the 19th century, and always includes large parts of local communities. The highlight of this festival is a colorful parade that starts from the mayor office, which involves local students, youths, and organizations. The name dugderan came from the sounds of bedug (large drum) and firecrackers, which are prominent in this event.
The people of Kuantan Singingi in Riau Province has a unique sports festival called Pacu Jalur. Held annually in Batang Kuantan River, this event is a common sight during special events, such as Ramadan, Independence Day, or Islamic New Year. The highlight is a rowing race joined by rowers from various areas in Riau. The sight of colorful, decorative boats competing in the river will make great photos.
The competing rower groups in this festival have members with specific tasks in each boat. There is a commander who leads, and two helmsmen who encourage the rowers by using high-spirited dances and rhythmic "music". You can also see other events, such as traditional dance, musical performances, and the local bazaar.
If you visit Kudus Regency in Central Java during Ramadan, you will witness a local event called dandangan. This event has been around since the 18th century, and it started as a gathering of Islamic school students (santri) in front of Menara Kudus. During the gathering, local peddlers often sold their goods and offered their services around the venue. This custom slowly grew into a local event.
During dandangan, you can see various unique performances, such as traditional music festivals and parade. Just like in the past, there are also many sellers who open temporary stalls around the venues. You can buy local snacks, souvenirs, and toys here. The spectacle usually continues with a night carnival.
Pesta Baratan (The Feast of Baratan) is a traditional festival in Jepara Regency, Central Java. This feast is not held in the exact Ramadan month, but two weeks before the first fasting day. Locals celebrate this event by doing series of ritualistic activities, such as cleaning their houses inside out, lighting candles or torches, and praying together at local mosques. After eating traditional foods, locals will start a parade.
The Baratan parade involves people of various ages, many of them play special characters. For example, there are people who parade with scary masks and costumes, symbolizing temptations everyone must outcome during Ramadan. People also wear costumes that symbolize Queen Kalinyamat (daughter of Demak king who fought against Portuguese troops) and her families.
If you love traditional foods when visiting certain areas, you must visit West Sumatra to see malamang. This is a cooking tradition that has been around for centuries, and it is still conducted in areas such as Bukittinggi, Payakumbuh, Solok, Painan, Padang, and Pariaman. The name malamang came from lemang, traditional food made of steamed sticky rice and coconut milk.
In this tradition, women (usually those who live close to each other) gather to make lemang using traditional methods. The snacks are cooked by wrapping them in banana leaves and steaming them in long bamboo stalks. The snacks are served to any guests that visit. Malamang is usually done during Ramadan, Eid, and special occasions such as a wedding.
Megengan is a perfect event for you to taste traditional foods and snacks of Central Java. Held annually in Demak Regency to welcome Ramadan, this cultural festival is where locals sell traditional foods and snacks in temporary street stalls, from Demak Square to Simpang Enam and Chinatown. One of the most prominent snacks is apem, a type of cupcake made of rice flour. The cake is chosen because its pronunciation resembles the word “sorry” in Arabic, reflecting the spirit of forgiveness in Ramadan.
Ramadan traditions in Indonesia are never dull, thanks to the country’s diverse culture. Make sure to see these events when you visit this country next time.