Jakarta, Friday 31st January, is a national holiday for Chinese New Year 2014. Schools and businesses are closed as part of the celebrations to welcome 2014, the Year of the Horse and say goodbye to 2013, the Year of the Snake
Up until I discovered a snake in my kitchen during the Chinese Year of the Snake I didn’t give much thought to the Chinese Calendar however, as I don’t believe in coincidence I now pay close attention to the coming Chinese New Year and am open to the possibility of finding a pony in the pantry at some stage over this coming year of the Horse.
Always slow to welcome a spontaneous day off school, I did wonder why the big fuss in Indonesia over Chinese New Year, particularly as the Chinese population in Indonesia makes up only 3% of Indonesia’s total population. However, if you consider that 3% of the population of Indonesia is c. 8 million people (almost double the population of Ireland) well, then that’s a lot of Chinese people to consider.
Indonesia has a total population of c. 240 million people living throughout its 17,508 Islands, so it is naturally expected with a population of that size that Indonesia would be a diverse country. So diverse in fact that despite being the largest Muslim community in the work, Indonesia honours other faiths by declaring public holidays in their honour.
Just some of the days are,
1st January -for Christians and all those that follow the Georgian calendar, 14th January- Celebration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad for all those that follow Islam, 31st January – for the Chinese and all those that want to say goodbye to the year of the snake and hello to the year of the horse.
31st March -A Day of Silence for all the Hindus in Bali, 18th April – Good Friday, for all the Roman Catholics who like to remember or re-act the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
13th May -Hari Raya Waisak, give it up for all the Buddists out there. 29th May & 25th June – Ascension of Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad (note: possible opportunity for joint celebration)
29th July – Ramadan, for all the Muslims, fair enough, over 80% of Indonesia is of Muslim faith. 17th August – Indonesian Independence Day – C’mon the red and white.
25th October -Islamic New Year, 25th December – Birth of Jesus Christ, for all the Turkey lovers out there.
To recap, there are three New Year celebrations, two important birthdays, a couple of ascensions, a few fasts and a few feasts. Anyone have anything else to include? Granny’s Birthday? Cat has kittens?
It seems that Indonesia not only welcomes all, but is also more than happy celebrate other religions and cultural traditions that area significant in other countries. Perhaps being a massive archipelago plonked between the Indian and the Pacific Ocean has that effect on a country and its culture. That’s all very well, when you’re catering for the masses, but think of poor Paddy who comes home from school with a decorated Chinese lantern and not a Bridget’s Cross. Or in March, when instead of proudly displaying his Hurling skills on the back of a lorry down Pana in the St. Patricks Day Parade, with a gold coloured plastic harp safety pinned onto his jersey, he practises silence in his classroom in Jakarta, for the Hindus in Bali.
One has to wonder what the side-effects will be on our children after such exposure to global culture and no exposure to their own culture. At worst they’ll come back not knowing a sliotar from a boomerang and won’t be able to bless their faces.
At best, they’re likely to grow up being all worldly, devoid of racial discrimination, displaying a knowledge and exercising an appreciation for cultural diversity along with showing an understanding of ethnic communities and their beliefs.
If only there could be a few more Irish out here, say about 7.5 million, then maybe the Indonesian authorities would recognise St. Patricks Day and add in just one more public holiday in the year, then we could have a little bit of Ireland over here. “[…]”