The popular festivals in Indonesia are another reason to visit this beautiful Asian country. There is a traditional or religious celebration practically every month of the year in this country. Take note so as to plan your journey around some of them so that you can enjoy the magic and splendour of these celebrations.
The Republic of Indonesia is a country with over seventeen thousand islands, of which the majority are inhabited by Muslims. Nonetheless, a section of the population espouses Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and even Confucianism.
This melting pot of cultures and religions endow its customs and inhabitants with a very diverse character, and is something that transfers to its most important events and its popular festivals. Below, we provide month by month details of the most important Indonesian festivals.
Mawlid Festival - January and February
During the first months of the year the Mawlid festival takes place in Indonesia to commemorate the birth of Mahoma. During the celebrations, there is a varied programme of activities. Talks with important Islamic academics, and artists representing Islamic music in all its genres all form part of this festival.
International Jazz Festival of Jakarta - March
Another of the very well-attended popular festivals of Indonesia is the International Jazz Festival of Jakarta. In the capital, this event is celebrated at the beginning of March and draws over a hundred musicians from all over the world.
In parallel to this international event, Muslims celebrate their most important religious festival: the Festival of Ashura, to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein. During the celebration, the Indonesian faithful pray and make offerings in the mosques.
Festival Vesak - April and May
One of the Indonesian festivities representing the Buddhist population is the celebration of the Buddha’s birth. This celebration is also known as the Vesak Festival and is celebrated all over the world to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Siddhartha. During the celebrations, there are processions, meditations and offerings to the Great Buddha.
At the end of May, other important Indonesian festivals take place: National Indonesia Day. The government organises different events to celebrate the country’s most emblematic festivities.
Summer Festival of Samosir - June
If you travel to Indonesia during this month you can attend the Summer Festival of Samosir. Throughout the week, the island of Samosir, which is situated in Toba Lake, hosts this lively summer festival. It has a wide range of activities such as boxing matches, concerts and gastronomic festivals.
Lailat ul Miraj - July
Among the Indonesian festivals related to the Muslim populations, the Lailat ul Miraj is a festivity in honour of Mahoma. This festival commemorates the rising to heaven of the prophet, accompanied by two angels.
Apart from festivities with religious origins, the Krakatoa festival also takes place in July. During the week, the province of Lampung pays homage to the victims of the volcanic eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. Among the commemorative activities, there are different sports, traditional music and kite flying exhibitions.
Independence Day - August
During the month of August, Indonesians celebrate their Independence Day. This popular festival fills the streets of the whole country with garlands and flags in order to commemorate the most important day in the country’s history as a free and independent nation.
Also in August, one of the most traditional popular festivals of Indonesia takes place: the Pati Ka Du’a Bapu Ata Mata. This is the name of the annual festival to honour the ancestors on Mount Kelimutu. The inhabitants make a pilgrimage to the lakes to make offerings of food in honour of the souls of their deceased loved ones.
Full moon festival - October
In Indonesia, each month there is a festival of the full moon but, in October, depending on the island, all of these have a special character. The women and children are responsible for the floral decorations and rice cakes, while the men prepare a traditional Indonesian dish.
During the full moon festivals, the temples are decorated with yellow and gold-coloured textiles and the deities are garlanded and served with offerings of food. The Indonesians, particularly in Bali, dress in traditional clothes and gather in the temples to pray and celebrate this colourful festival.
Eid al-Adha - November
In November, another Indonesian festival of Muslim origin takes place: the Eid al-Adha or Festival of Sacrifice. As its name implies, an animal is sacrificed and offered to Allah, emulating the Sacred Scriptures when God interceded to save the life of Ishmael, son of Abraham.
Muslim New Year - December
December is the month of the Muslim New Year, as well as the Christian Christmas. Depending on the island you are on, you will be able to attend the celebration of one or the other religious event.
All these events in Indonesia can provide that extra finishing touch to your journey around the country. You will also get to know the local culture and traditions more closely.