Christmas tree in Mall Taman Anggrek, Jakarta, Indonesia
Christmas tree in Mall Taman Anggrek, Jakarta, Indonesia

Christmas in Indonesia (locally known as Natal, from the Portuguese word for Christmas), which has approximately 28 million Christians (of which about 30% are Roman Catholics),[1] is celebrated with various traditions throughout the country. In the regions with a majority of Christians (Protestants and Catholics), there are Christmas celebrations with ceremonies and local food.[2] In big cities, the shopping centres are mostly decorated with plastic Christmas trees and Sinterklas (derived from the Dutch word Sinterklaas). Most local television channels broadcast Christmas musical concerts and the annual, national Christmas celebration which is organised by the government. In addition to traditional foods, generally every Christmas Day is filled with cookies, like nastar (pineapple tart), kastengel (from Dutch word kaasstengel), or 'putri salju'.[3]

By region


Christmas in Papua is marked with Barapen (grilling stone).
Christmas in Papua is marked with Barapen (grilling stone).

In the Papua region, after the Christmas mass, a Barapen (grilling stone) will be held, which is a ritual cooking of pork for the feast. The pork meat will be cooked in-between hot stones which are heated using wood. Instead of using matches, Papuan people will scrape the wood continuously to produce heat to set it on fire. In order to prepare the Barapen, the Papuan men will dig a hole to put the hot stones in. At the same time, Papuan women will prepare the vegetables, such as sweet potato, water spinach, fern, cassava, spinach, and papaya. At first, the hot stones are stacked on the base of the hole. Then, the pork and vegetables will be put into the hole, and covered with another layer of hot stones. The three stacks of this arrangement will cook the pork in the hole for half a day. The tradition of Barapen is an expression of gratitude, togetherness, sharing, and love which is characterised by eating pork together.[4][5]


Particularly in Negeri Naku, South Leitimur, Ambon, there is a ceremony called cuci negeri (cleaning the nation). This ceremony symbolises the purification and liberation of sins from the local people and their environment. The cuci negeri is started with a gathering in the community function hall for each clan to hold their own traditional ritual. From there, the Ambonese will walk to the traditional function hall. They do not walk in silence, but sing and dance along with the sounds of tifa (traditional music instrument). Along the way, the women bring some offerings like betel, areca nut, and traditional drink called sopi.[6] Another unique characteristic of Christmas celebration in the Maluku is that the ship sirens will sound and church bells will be rung at the same time on Christmas Eve.[5][7]


In Yogyakarta area, the Christmas celebration is marked by a wayang kulit adaptation of the Nativity. The church mass is led by the priest wearing traditional Javanese costume (wearing beskap and blankon) and using the local language. Similarly with Eid al-Fitr, the Christmas time is used to visit friends and family, in which children may receive money in an envelope from the elders.[5][7]


The pre-Christmas celebrations in Manado start from 1 December when the regional government officers go on the "Christmas Safari" – observe the mass in a different district every day. Some people in Manado have a tradition to join a carnival or visit and clean their families' graves. The series of Christmas celebrations will be ended in the first week of January with a festival called kunci taon. In this festival, there will be a carnival across the region in unique costumes.[5][7]


Penjor as street decorations for Christmas in Bali
Penjor as street decorations for Christmas in Bali

Most of Christian villages in Bali are located on the south of this island. In those villages, road decorations called penjor (made from yellow coconut leaves) will be made for Christmas, which symbolises Anantaboga dragon. The Christmas celebration is affected by Hinduism – Balinese culture.[8]

In Bali, the Christmas tree is made from chicken feathers. This unique tree has been imported to some European countries.[9]


Torajan people celebrate Christmas by having a cultural festival called Lovely December. This festival consists of mass dancing, a culinary festival, cultural carnival, bamboo music performance, and handicraft exhibition. The festival is ended by fireworks and Lettoan procession which is held on 26 December.[5][10] Lettoan is a ritual of having pig parade with cultural symbols that represent three dimensions of human life. Those three symbols are:

North Sumatra

Batak Babi panggang, it usually serves as main course in Christmas
Batak Babi panggang, it usually serves as main course in Christmas

For the Batak in North Sumatera, the Christmas Day is always followed by sacrificing an animal as a result of people chipping in and saving the money months before. This tradition is called marbinda and shows togetherness and mutual cooperation. The sacrificed animal can be a pig, a buffalo, or an ox, and the meat will be shared to all the people that participate in the purchasing of the animal.[5][12]

National Christmas Celebration

Every year, Ministry of Religious Affairs holds the National Christmas Celebration of the Republic of Indonesia. The program started in 1993 as a suggestion from Tiopan Bernhard Silalahi, who was Minister of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform in the Sixth Development Cabinet, who has Protestant background, to the then President of Indonesia Suharto.[13] Since that, National Christmas Celebration has been held every year, except in 2004, which was canceled as a condolence for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and in 2018, which was canceled as a condolence for the victims of the 2018 Sunda Strait tsunami.[14] Until 2013, National Christmas Celebration was always held in Jakarta, the most common used venue was Jakarta Convention Center.[13] But since 2014, the tradition was changed by the newly-elected President of Indonesia Joko Widodo.[15] This is the list of National Christmas Celebration hosts since 2014:

Year Host Province Date Remarks
2014 Jayapura City[16] Papua 27 December 2014 For the first time National Christmas Celebration was held outside Jakarta Special Capital Region
2015 Kupang City[17] East Nusa Tenggara 28 December 2015
2016 Minahasa Regency[18] North Sulawesi 27 December 2016 For the first time National Christmas Celebration was held in a regency
2017 Pontianak City[19] West Kalimantan 28 December 2017 For the first time outside the capital of Indonesia, National Christmas Celebration will be held in a province and a city whose majority of population are not Christians
2019 Bogor[20] West Java 27 December 2019

See also


  1. ^ (in Indonesian) Sensus Penduduk 2010:Penduduk Indonesia Menurut Wilayah dan Agama yang Dianut, Badan Pusat Statistik. Accessed by 15 December 2014.
  2. ^ Christmas celebration, the Indonesian way, ID Nugroho & Anissa S. Febrina, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta. 30 December 2009. Diakses pada 15 December 2014.
  3. ^ Christmas in Indonesia, Diakses pada 15 December 2014.
  4. ^ Sukacita Natal di Nabire Archived 16 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine, – 23 December 2012. Accessed by 15 December 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Unique Indonesian Traditions for Celebrating Christmas, – Rina Atmasari. 25 December 2013. Diakses pada 15 December 2014.
  6. ^ (in Indonesian) Warga Negeri Naku Gelar Adat Cuci Negeri Archived 16 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Diakses pada 16 December 2014.
  7. ^ a b c (in Indonesian) Tradisi Natal di Indonesia Archived 20 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Muna Zakiah: – 20 December 2013. Diakses pada 16 December 2014.
  8. ^ Balinese Christians: In Search of Tradition, Benito Lopulalan in Bali Today: Modernity by Jean Couteau et al. Page 111-115. 2005. Jakarta: KPG (Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia). Diakses pada 16 December 2014.
  9. ^ (in Indonesian) Uniknya Pohon Natal dari Bulu Ayam Archived 15 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Ely – Ciputra Entrepreneurship. 19 December 2011. Diakses pada 15 December 2014.
  10. ^ Tana Toraja Festival held on Dec. 25 to boost tourism, The Jakarta Post. 22 December 2011. Diakses pada 16 December 2014.
  11. ^ (in Indonesian) "Lettoan" Meriahkan "Lovely December" Toraja, Aditia Maruli. – 27 December 2009. Diakses pada 16 December 2014.
  12. ^ (in Indonesian) Rayakan Natal, Masyarakat Batak Juga Sembelih Hewan Archived 16 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Diakses pada 16 December 2014.
  13. ^ a b (in Indonesian) Sejarah Perayaan Natal Nasional Republik Indonesia on YouTube Diakses pada 5 Desember 2017.
  14. ^ (in Indonesian) Umat Kristen Prihatin, Perayaan Natal Nasional Dibatalkan. 29 Desember 2004. Diakses pada 5 Desember 2017.
  15. ^ (in Indonesian) Joko Widodo Ungkap Alasan Perayaan Natal Nasional Digelar di Papua. 27 December 2014. Diakses pada 5 Desember 2017.
  16. ^ (in Indonesian) Pidato Presiden Joko Widodo Pada Perayaan Natal Bersama Nasional 2014, di Stadion Mandala, Jayapura, Papua, 27 Desember 2014
  17. ^ (in Indonesian) Ribuan Umat Kristiani Hadiri Perayaan Natal Nasional di Kupang
  18. ^ (in Indonesian)Warga Minahasa Antusias Hadiri Natal Nasional 2016
  19. ^ (in Indonesian) Perayaan Natal Nasional 2017 Dipusatkan di Pontianak dan Dihadiri Presiden Joko Widodo
  20. ^ (in Indonesian)Joko Widodo talks with Christians while attending the 2019 National Christmas Celebration which was held at the Sentul International Convention Center (SICC)