Festivals and Public Holidays in Indonesia

By | July 29, 2022

Due to the huge diversity of ethnic groups and mixture of religions, Indonesia naturally has a huge number of cultural events taking place throughout the year. Many local holidays are no less colorful than big state events, so even in the absence of any official festivals, you can always get acquainted with many interesting folk traditions.

According to Country Matters, Bali hosts colorful celebrations of the Hindu New Year (March-April), the main holiday of the island is the Galungan festival (the date is not fixed, it takes place within 10 days), the spring festival at the Pura Besakih temple, Nyepi or the “Feast of Silence” is accompanied by many independent ceremonies – the day of the purification of the temple deities Melasti, the ceremony of expelling evil spirits Pengrupuk, Ngembak Nyepi (“Forgiveness Sunday”), etc., the ceremonial festival of Pura Meru, the famous “Full Moon Festival” in the temple in Chakranegara (June), the Perang Rain Festival are also interesting Ketupat” (October-December), the celebration of Pujavali and many others.

Independence Day (August 17) is celebrated with great pomp in every town and village, especially in Jakarta, accompanied by numerous carnivals and cultural events. The Jakarta Fair is held in June and lasts approximately three weeks. It is also worth visiting colorful and vibrant events – the street fair “Jalan Jaxa” (August) and the International Cultural Performance (May). Theatrical performances are held on Sumba in February and March, returning to the era of internecine wars. On the island of Larantuka, a dramatic “Easter Parade” is held (April-May), in Ruteng and Flores – fights on whips (August), on Sulawesi the “funeral banquets” Torayan (August-October) are especially interesting.
In Java, performances of the traditional “Ramayana ballet” are especially colorful, usually held in the open theater of the Prambanan temple complex twice a month from May to September. Madura Island hosts the well-known bull races (August-September), ending with a colorful final run in Pamekasan (September). You should definitely visit the four-day Buddhist festival Vesak in Borobudur, which is celebrated in honor of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Thousands of pilgrims take part in the procession from the Mendut temple to Borobudur, and at the end of the processions there are dance performances and exhibitions of applied arts.


Only three official holidays have a fixed date:

  • New Year (January 1)
  • Independence Day (August 17)
  • Christmas (December 25).

The remaining holidays are religious and their dates are determined according to the lunar calendars: Muslim – according to the Hijara, and Hindu-Buddhist – according to the Shaka calendar. These include:

  • Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (27 Rajab)
  • Nieli (March)
  • Death of the Prophet Isa (March-April)
  • Idulfitr or pebaran
  • Vesak (May)
  • Ascension of Isa (April – May)
  • Idul Adha
  • Muslim New Year
  • Birthday of Prophet Muhammad.

In addition, national holidays are widely celebrated:

  • Kartini Day (April 21)
  • Pancasil Day (October 1)
  • Armed Forces Day (5 October)
  • Youth Pledge Day (October 28)
  • Heroes Day (November 10)

Religion in Indonesia

Indonesia is called the maritime crossroads of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Almost 90% of the population are Muslims. The remaining 10% is distributed between Christians and Buddhists. The overwhelming majority of Muslims are Sunnis of the Shafi’i persuasion (madhhab). Islam is spread mainly among the large peoples of Java, Madura and Sumatra. There is a wide network of Muslim religious institutions, a developed system of Sharia legal proceedings. The Council of Ulams operates under the Ministry of Religion.
Although Islam is the most widely practiced religion, it has not become the state religion in Indonesia. The Pancasila National Philosophy presupposes one God and guarantees the freedom to practice any religion.
And do not be surprised by the fact that in the center of Muslim Indonesia is the Hindu island of Bali, where, on the contrary, 90% of the population professes Hinduism, and 10% is distributed between Muslims, Buddhists and Christians.
A feature of the religious situation is the syncretic nature of the main religious confessions, which include elements of each other, as well as attributes of local traditional beliefs.

Religious Holidays in Indonesia

The dates of religious holidays are determined according to the lunar calendars: Muslim – according to the Hijara, and Hindu-Buddhist – according to the Shaka calendar.

  • January-February – Ramadan (Buluan Puasa).
  • March-April – Nyeli’s holiday.
  • March-April – commemoration of the death of the prophet Isa.
  • April-May – Ascension of Isa.
  • April-May – Muslim New Year, Muharram.
  • April-May – Idul Adha.
  • May – Vesak.
  • July – Birthday of the Prophet Mohammed.
  • December – Isra Miraj Nabi Mahammed, the ascension of the Prophet Mohammed.

Indonesian traditions

Indonesians are very tolerant of foreigners. So, for example, during a Muslim fast, tourists are allowed not to observe it. But at the same time, Indonesians are very sensitive to their religious rites and traditions, and it is recommended to show respect for them. The calm rhythm of life made the locals slow and thorough. The working day starts very early – at 7 o’clock in the morning and ends early – about 3 o’clock in the afternoon; the rest of the time Indonesians spend in peace.

Many Indonesians love to be photographed, especially if you are going to photograph their children. Despite this, you still need to ask permission before taking pictures. Everyone will understand if you ask “Photo?” with a friendly expression. If you are still not understood, point to the camera – if the reaction is positive, you can shoot. Older people can be shy – if they show their dissatisfaction, say “Thank you” and move on. It is impolite to take pictures of people praying.

Indonesians are warm and hospitable. They will gladly show you their home and life.

In Indonesia, you can’t point fingers at anyone. It is strictly forbidden to touch the head of an Indonesian, because. it is sacred (no one has the right to touch another person’s head). Feet, on the contrary, are considered bad, so you should not swing your legs in sacred places, point your foot at someone. Shows of tenderness in public should be avoided, you should not cross your legs, talk about politics, shout and get angry.

Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, and therefore the following rules should be observed: you can not wear too short shorts and skirts, sunbathe without the top of a swimsuit, in government offices and mosques, clothing must cover the knees.

Public Holidays in Indonesia