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Unity in Diversity Ethnicity Population
Density Religion Language
Land Government Economic Factors

Unity in Diversity
The Indonesian national motto "Unity in Diversity" points to one of the greatest
attractions of your host country, Indonesia. There are some 300 ethnic groups,
a result of both the country's unique geography and history.
Many Indonesians may see themselves first by their ethnic and cultural group
and secondly as Indonesians. The glue that binds the people together is the
usage of the Bahasa Indonesia, the national language, and Pancasila,
the national philosophy, which stresses the doctrineof unity and
universal justice for all Indonesians.

The majority of Indonesians are of Malay extraction. The remainder of the
"pribumi" (natives) are Melanesian (in Irian Jaya and the eastern islands).
There are ethnic Chinese, Indians and Arabs concentrated mostly in
urban areas throughout the archipelago.
Major Ethnic groups: Javanese - 45%, Sundanese - 14%, Madurese - 7.5%,
Coastal Malays - 7.5%, and others - 26%

200 million (early 1997). Population growth rate: 1.56%, Birth rate 24.06 births
per 1,000 population (1995 estimate). Two thirds of the population resides
in Java, the center of the country's economic and political power.
Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation in the world after China,
India and the United States. Age breakdown: 0-14 years - 32%,
15-64 years - 64%, 65 years and over - 4%.

Together with the adjoining smaller islands of Madura and Bali, Java accounts
for just over 7% of the Indonesia land area, but these islands are populated
by some 119 million inhabitants which comprises 59.5% of the total
Indonesian population. By contrast, Irian Jaya represents 22% of the total
land mass, yet has only 1% of the population.

About 88% of the population is Muslim. Roughly 10% is Christian
(Protestant and Roman Catholic) and approximately 2% is Hindu and Buddhist.
All five of these religions are formally recognized in Indonesia and have
official national holidays commemorating events of importance to their
followers. While the country is predominantly Muslim, the government
is secular and therefore is not based on a single religion. Read about
religious holidays in Indonesia.

The official language is Bahasa Indonesia. The written and spoken
form is based on the Malay trade dialect which was used throughout
the region in the past. Bahasa Indonesia is a strong unifying
factor in a country where more than 300 distinct regional languages
are still spoken. Bahasa Indonesia is not a difficult language to
learn and many expatriates quickly learn the language sufficiently
to succeed in meeting every day needs. More formal Bahasa
Indonesia is expected to be used in high level business meetings.
Newspapers and television news use formal Bahasa Indonesia.

English may be spoken in international and high level business contexts
in large cities. You may be able to converse with some Indonesians
in Jakarta in English. In rural areas it may be difficult to find people
who speak English, unless the locale is a widely visited tourist destination.
Many employees of international hotels and limousine drivers speak English.
You may have difficulty finding an English speaking taxi driver
or household staff.
Dutch may be understood by older Indonesians, who may have attended
Dutch schools.


Geography Administrative Divisions
Largest Cities Climate
Indonesians refer to their homeland as Tanah Air Kita, which means
"Our Land and Water." This refers to its geographical makeup consisting
of 17,508 islands with a total land mass of 1.91 million square
kilometers connected by six seas covering more than 3 million
square kilometers. Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world
extending some 2,000 kilometers from North to South and more than
5,000 kilometers from East to West. The archipelago stretches over more
than one-tenth of the Equator between Southeast Asia and Australia.
The largest islands are the Kalimantan provinces on Borneo, Sumatra,
Irian Jaya, Sulawesi and Java (where Jakarta is located).

Nearly 60 percent of Indonesia's land is forested and a significant
portion is mountainous and volcanic. Some mountains on Sumatra and
Irian Jaya exceed 3,000 meters in height. Java alone has 112 volcanoes,
some of which are active, including Krakatau in the Sunda Straits.
Centuries of volcanic activity has led to high degree of soil fertility
on Java and Bali, which accounts in part for the high concentration of
agriculture and people on these two islands.

Administrative Divisions
Indonesia is divided into 23 provinces, 2 special regions and 1 special
capital city district which are further sub-divided into smaller entities
of districts, sub-districts, villages and neighborhoods.
The 24 provinces are:
Bali, Bengkulu, Irian Jaya, Jambi, Jawa Barat, Jawa Tengah, Jawa Timur,
Kalimantan Barat, Kalimantan Selatan, Kalimantan Tengah, Kalimantan Timur,
Lampung, Maluku, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Riau,
Sulawesi Selatan, Sulawesi Tengah, Sulawesi Tenggara, Sulawesi Utara,
Sumatra Barat, Sumatra Selatan and Sumatra Utara.
The two special regions are Aceh at the northern tip of Sumatra and
Yogyakarta in Central Java. The special capital city district is Jakarta.

Largest Cities
Jakarta, with a population of over 9 million, Surabaya, Bandung,
Semarang, Yogyakarta, Surakarta (Solo), Medan, Padang, Palembang,
Ujung Pandang, Banjarmasin, Bandar Lampung and Manado.

Mostly equatorial. Temperatures range between 16-35 degrees
Celsius (61-91 degrees F) with humidity ranging from 60-90 percent.
There are two seasons, the rainy monsoon season which usually lasts
from November through May, followed by the dry season which
usually lasts from June through October. Rainfall varies throughout
Indonesia, averaging 706 mm (28 inches) yearly.


The Republic of Indonesia Pancasila
The Executive Branch The Legislative Branch
The Judicial Branch

The Republic of Indonesia
Indonesia is a republic with political power organized around the executive,
legislative and judicial branches of government. Indonesia declared
independence from the Netherlands and Japan on August 17, 1945.

Pancasila, the Five Principles, is the basic philosophy of the government.
These principles are: Belief in one God, Just and civilized humanity,
the Unity of Indonesia, Democracy led by the wisdom of deliberations among
representatives, and Social Justice for all Indonesian citizens.

The Executive Branch
The current president, Abdulrachman Wahid (also known as Gus Dur) is the
chief of state and head of Government. Gus Dur won the democratic elections
held in May 1999. The President is also the supreme commander-in-chief
of the armed forces. The position of Vice President is held by
Ibu Megawati Soekarnoputri.

The Legislative Branch
House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat or DPR). While previous
DPR were dominated by members of the Golkar party, representatives of many
parties currently serve in the DPR after the democratic elections held
in 1998/1999. The People's Consultative Assembly (Majelis
Permusyawarakatan Rakyat or MPR) includes the DPR members in addition
to 500 indirectly elected and appointed members. The MPR meets every
five years to elect the President and Vice President.

The Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court is called Mahkamah Agung.

The Legal System

The legal system is based on Roman-Dutch law. This has been substantially
enhanced and modified over the years to cater to indigenous concepts and
new criminal procedures code being enacted every year.

Political Organizations

During the later part of the "New Order" government of President Soeharto,
Indonesia recognized three legal political organizations: Golkar - the ruling
political organization, PPP - the Muslim backed Development Unity Party,
and PDI - the Indonesian Democratic Party.
Since the fall of the Soeharto Regime in May 1998, many new political parties
have been formed, with 48 parties participating in the May 1999 elections for
parliamentary representation.


Currency Mineral Resources
Main Agricultural Products Main Manufactured Products

The Rupiah. The exchange rate went
from Rp 2,450/$1 in July 1997 to
Rp 14,500/$1 in July 1998. This
currency devaluation was a major factor
in causing a severe economic crisis,
the effects of which are still dominating
the economy in mid-1999.
Current exchange rates.

Mineral Resources
Oil and natural gas, coal, tin, copper, nickel ore and gold.

Main Agricultural Products
Rice, palm oil, coffee, tea, spices, sugar, natural rubber, shrimp and fish.

Main Manufactured Products
Plywood, textiles, garments, shoes, processed rubber, processed food,
electrical/electronic goods, and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).

Indonesian Holidays

Religious Holidays in Indonesia
National Holidays    
International Holidays

Calendars Used in Indonesia
What to expect on August 17th Indonesian Independence Day in Jakarta
Dirgahayu RI (Long live Indonesia!) can be seen everywhere.
Ramadan and Lebaran

There are four types of holidays in Indonesia: religious, national,
international and commemorative. Ones that are designated tanggal
merah (literally red date, or a date that is designated in red on a calendar)
signify national holidays when government offices, schools and most
businesses are closed.

Religious Holidays in Indonesia

The Indonesian government officially recognizes five religions: Islam,
Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist and Hindu. As in other countries,
each of these religious communities in Indonesia celebrate events that are
important to their faith. Some of these are national holidays, others are not.
Many of these dates change from year to year, as they are based on other
calendars. The Ministry of Religion decides the dates on which religious
holidays will be held each year. Consult a current Indonesian calendar,
or the links below to determine the dates for the current year.
Religious holidays that are national holidays (tanggal merah)
in Indonesia:


Satu Muharam or Tahun Baru Hijrah Muslim New Year 1st day of
Muharam Marks the beginning of the new year on the Hijrah calendar.
Maulid Nabi Birth of the Prophet
Mohammad 12th day of Rabiul
Awal Prayers are held
at neighborhood mosques.
Isra Miraj Ascension of
Mohammad 27th day of the
7th month Commemorates
the ascension of the Prophet
Mohammad to Heaven.
Prayers are held at
neighborhood mosques.
Hari Raya Idul Fitri or Lebaran End of the Ramadan fasting month ? Syawal
The end of the month of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting.
Mass prayers are held in mosques and large open areas around the country.
Celebrated with the traditional dish ketupat and visiting with family and friends.
Charity donations (amal) are traditionally given at this time.
Just prior to Lebaran a mass exodus (mudik) from Jakarta of over 3 million
people occurs as residents return to their villages to celebrate with family and
friends. Begging of forgiveness for any transgressions or slights in the
past year is expressed during visits Mohon Maaf Lahir dan Batin.
A Lebaran bonus, THR, is traditionally given to all Muslim staff or employees
prior to the holidays. In urban areas halal-bihalal (mutual begging of pardon)
gatherings are held. This is the time of year when Muslims traditionally buy
new clothes.

Idul Adha or Lebaran Haji Muslim Day of Sacrifice ?0th day of Dzulhijjah
Commemorates Abraham willingness to sacrifice his son upon God command.
Falls at the end of the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Mass prayers are
held in mosques and large open areas around the country. Animals are
sacrificed and the meat is given to the poor.

Christian Protestant and Catholic:
Christian holidays fall on the same days as in other countries. The following
are national holidays:
Wafat Isa Almasih Good Friday Commemorates the death of Jesus.
Hari Paskah Easter Celebrates the day Jesus arose from the dead Kenaikan
Isa Almasih Ascension of Christ Commemorates the day Jesus ascended
into Heaven. Hari Natal Christmas Celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.

Hari Raya Galungan Galungan
Celebrates the coming of the Gods and the ancestral spirits to earth to dwell
again in the homes of the descendants.
The festivities are characterized by offerings, dances and new clothes.

Hari Raya Nyepi Nyepi
Hindu Day of Silence or the Hindu New Year in the Balinese Saka calendar.
The largest celebrations are held in Bali as well as in Balinese Hindu
communities around Indonesia.
On New Year Eve the villages are cleaned, food is cooked for 2 days and
in the evening as much noise is made as possible to scare away the devils.
On the following day, Hindus do not leave their homes, cook or engage
in any activity. Streets are deserted, and tourists are not allowed to
leave hotel complexes.

Hari Waisak Waisak Day April or May Commemorates the birth,
enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha. Prayers and celebrations are
held in Buddhist temples around the country. The largest celebration is at the
Borobudur and Mendut temples in Central Java not far from Yogyakarta.

National Holidays
August 17th, Hari Proklamasi Indonesia Indonesian Independence Day
Indonesians celebrate the proclamation of independence from 350 years of
Dutch colonial rule.
Festivities abound in cities and villages alike, organized by the government,
neighborhood community associations and organizations.

International Holidays
January 1st, Tahun Baru New Year Day
New Year Eve is celebrated with some revelry in urban areas. Hotels,
discos and major restaurants offer special meals, entertainment and dancing.

February Imlek Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is celebrated by Indonesians of Chinese ancestry. Visiting
of family and friends, special dishes and gifts of ampau (money) mark the
days activities. Dragon dances,which typify Chinese New Year in other
countries, are forbidden in Indonesia. Most Chinese merchants close their
shops for at least one day and maybe up to a week. Greeting cards can be
sent to Chinese friends and colleagues;
many are available in the stores. The date for Imlek is based on the Chinese
lunar calendar. Government offices are open for business.

Commemorative Days:
Offices and businesses are not closed on commemorative days.
April 21st Hari Kartini Kartini Day
The birthday of Raden Ajeng Kartini, a prominent leader in the women
emancipation movement in Indonesia. The event is marked by activities
within women groups. In Indonesian schools children compete in national
dress competitions. The letters of Kartini to friends in Holland have been
published in Letters of a Javanese Princess.

May 2nd Hari Pendidikan Nasional National Education Day
Celebrates the birth, growth and progress in the Indonesian education system.
Ceremonies are held at schools across the nation.

May 20th Hari Kebangkitan Nasional National Awakening Day
June 1st Hari Pancasila Pancasila Day
Commemorates the Indonesian State Philosophy, the five basic principles
called Pancasila. Ceremonies are held at government offices and schools.

June 22nd Ulang Tahun Jakarta Jakarta Anniversary
Celebrates the founding of the city of Jakarta in 1527. The main event,
the Jakarta Fair, is held at the Fairgrounds in Jakarta. In addition,
performances highlighting Betawi (people indigenous to Jakarta) culture are
held throughout the city.

September 30th G30S-PKI (pronounced gay tiga puluh es)
Commemorates the attempted overthrow of the Indonesian government by the
Communist Party of Indonesia.

October 1st Hari Kesaktian Pancasila
October 5th Hari ABRI Armed Forces Day
Commemorates the glories and achievements of the Indonesian Armed
Forces, highlighting and reaffirming their unique role in Indonesian society.

October 28th Hari Sumpah Pemuda Youth Pledge Day
Commemorates the uniting of the Indonesian youth against the Dutch and
the pledge they developed on this day in 1928.

November 10th Hari Pahlawan Hero Day
Solemn ceremonies are held at national cemeteries around the archipelago.
Those official designated as heroes by the Indonesian government are
honored in a variety of forums and activities.

December 22nd Hari Ibu Mother Day
Events highlight the unique role of mothers specifically, and women in general.

Calendars Used in Indonesia
Muslim Calendar Hijriah

A lunar calendar, 10-11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar. The calendar
begins in the year that Mohammad took flight from Mecca to Medina.
Each lunar month has 29 days.

Balinese Calendar Saka-Wuku
The Balinese calendar is a combination of Saka, the Hindu solar-lunar year of
12 moons, and the Javanese-Balinese Wuku calendar of 210 days which is
divided into weeks.
The combination of these two calendars and the many names for the
different weeks and days make the Balinese calendar a complicated puzzle to
solve. Experts in the field consult special charts and tables to determine days
for the various religious festivals and significant days.

Gregorian Calendar - Used throughout the world, this calendar marks its
beginning with the birth of Christ. The year is divided into 12 months,
consisting of 30 or 31 days, except for the month of February.

Mini Glossary:
Halal-bihalal               ;Gatherings held for the mutual begging of pardon
Ketupat                      ;Traditional rice dish, cooked in coconut fronds
Mohon Maaf Lahir dan Batin ; Traditional asking for forgiveness of slights
                                            and sins
Mudik                        ;Mass exodus of Muslims from urban areas at Lebaran
Tanggal merah           ; Red date on calendars, a national holiday

What to expect on August 17th Indonesian Independence Day in Jakarta
Leading up to the big event:

Preparations for the gaiety begin weeks before the 17th of August.
High-rise office buildings around town sprout large banners or lighted designs,
fences around the presidential palace and many government offices are
draped in red and white bunting, malls decorate in red and white and hold
sales, the city administration spends big bucks to create a unique series of
red and white lighted decorations down the length of Jl. Thamrin and Jl.
Sudirman, housing complexes repaint their main gate decorate with
independence themes.The whole town takes on a red and white hue and
the words

Dirgahayu RI (Long live Indonesia!) can be seen everywhere.
Political observers, social scientists and those with opinions write alvnsights
in the newspapers and magazines on the country progress
since independence and challenges for the future as well as discussions on
what the founding fathers would think of various conditions in society today.

Neighborhood associations collect donations from homeowners to sponsor
games and prizes for children. Schools hold contests to see which class
can decorate their room in the most patriotic manner as well as holding games
and races amongst classes.

TV shows commemorating the struggle for independence are aired for weeks
before and after independence day. All-star musical extravaganzas are
held in various venues and broadcast throughout the archipelago.

Neighborhood associations, or your local RT (neighborhood head), organize a
clean up of the area or kerja bakti. Drains are swept, weeds are cut back,
debris is burned and public areas are repainted. Women are asked to
provide snacks to the hard working men. In 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the
Republic, homeowners were obligated to decorate their homes with lights and
fly the Indonesian flag for weeks. Businesses were asked to make significant
contributions to fund an extravaganza of fireworks and entertainment in
Monas Square as well as for other
festivities. In years past,
neighborhood heads would ask homeowners
to paint their homes, at least the
front, in preparation for the big day.
The President delivers his State of the
Nation Address to the members of the
House of Representatives, diplomatic
corps and honored guests on the
day before Independence Day.

On August 17th:

The most solemn ceremony is the televised flag hoisting at the
National Palace. Full of pomp and circumstance and conducted basically
the same way each year, it is a spectacle of the greatest respect and
honor for the flag and the Republic. The ceremonies are led by the
President and Vice President, and attended by the cabinet, military brass,
family members of the current and preceding president,
diplomatic corps and honored guests. High School students from throughout
the archipelago are chosen for their marching skills and put on a show of
intricate steps and turns to hoist the flag. The military is out with all its
brass in high shine, standing smartly at attention in their dress uniforms.

While the solemn ceremonies are taking place, neighborhoods gear up for
fun and games for the kids.
Krupuk (shrimp chips) eating contests, bike decorating, games, races and
lots of fun fill the day. The women are busy in cooking contests to see
who can make the biggest krupuk or the most delicious nasi tumpeng.

One of the most popular games is the Panjat Pinang. An Areca palm trunk is
erected in a public area and highly greased with a mixture of clay and oil.
At the top are hung various prizes like bikes and TVs. Whoever makes it
to the top wins the prize. Needless to say there are a lot of slippery,
muddy kids and grownups alike climbing over each other and struggling to
reach the goal. A good time is had by all, especially the crowd watching
the gaiety.

Following the big day:

Usually held on the Sunday after Independence Day, is the spectacular
parade of floats (81 In 1997) and marching bands which begin near the
National Monument and travel down Jl. Thamrin and Jl. Sudirman. The floats
are sponsored by government institutions, state companies, private firms and
foundations. The artistic skills which won Indonesia acclaim in Tournament of
Roses parades in years past are enjoyed by the tens of thousands
of Jakartans who show up to enjoy the spectacle.

Mini Glossary:

Dirgahayu RI   ; Long live Indonesia!
Kerja bakti      ; Volunteer work conducted for the good of the community
Krupuk           ; Shrimp chips
Monas           ; Area surrounding Monumen Nasional (National Monument),
                     called qkftonas or Merdeka Square.
Nasi tumpeng ; Cone of yellow rice, with various dishes, served at ceremonies
Panjat Pinang ; Game commonly held on Indonesian Independence Day
RT                ; Neighborhood head, neighborhood unit or Rukun Tetangga

Ramadan and Lebaran
Idul Fitri, more commonly referred to in Indonesia as Lebaran, is the
celebration that comes at the end of the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadhan.
The Arabic meaning of Idul Fitri is "becoming holy again".
The dates of Lebaran vary from year to year, as the Muslim calendar (Hijriah)
is based on a lunar cycle of 29 days. The exact date is determined by
the sighting of the new moon. These lunar calculations lead to an official
announcement by the government on the eve of Idul Fitri so that the faithful
know when to conduct the necessary observances.


To understand the significance of Lebaran, an understanding about the fasting
month of Ramadhan is important.
During the month of Ramadhan, Muslims must refrain from eating, drinking,
smoking, having sex or getting angry during the daylight hours. The fast begins
in the morning just before sunrise, at Imsak, and is broken at maghrib which
falls at sunset. Fasting during the month of Ramadhan is one of the five
pillars of Islam and an obligation for devout Muslims.

Those fasting awaken early in the morning to have a meal before subuh.
In order to awaken the faithful, the call to prayer is sounded from
neighborhood mosques.In addition, groups of young boys walk around
neighborhoods beating on drums and other noise makers to awaken the

The breaking of the fast at sunset is a very social occasion for which
special foods are prepared for gatherings with family or friends.
Upon hearing the sound of the bedug drum on the television or the call to
prayer from the neighborhood mosque at sunset, the faithful know they
can break their fast, or buka puasa. This is usually done with a very sweet
drink and sweet snacks. Maghrib prayers are made before a full meal is
served. Taraweh prayers are held in neighborhood mosques and at
gatherings every evening at about 7:30 p.m.

The schedule for imsak and maghrib is posted in major newspapers
throughout Indonesia, as well as published in handouts by major religious

While it is expected that people will keep to their normal activities during the
fast, needless to say the lack of liquid and food during the day and the
unusual sleep and meal schedule soon take their toll. After the first week you
may see that sleep and food deprivation cause those fasting to have reduced
energy levels as well as finding it more difficult to concentrate on tasks.

Why does Islam oblige its followers to fast during Ramadhan each year?

To develop compassion for the poor and needy who feel hungry everyday.
As a spiritually and physically cleansing experience. Just as in other religions,
fasting is seen as an opportunity to separate yourself from the things of this
world and to concentrate on your relationship with Allah.
To become closer to Allah by contemplating his will in your life.

Children begin fasting at 10 years old, though perhaps not for the entire day.
Women who are pregnant or menstruating, as well as those who are ill or
traveling far from home are not required to fast.

How does Ramadhan affect expatriates?

The pace of life overall slows down. Things take longer to get accomplished
both at home and at the office.
Your household staff may need a nap in the afternoon to keep pace with
their altered sleeping and eating schedules. Muslims that may not otherwise
be diligent in observing the obligatory five prayers a day, may begin to pray
regularly during this time, necessitating their absence from work for about
10-15 minutes. It would be best to schedule difficult tasks before or after
Ramadhan to achieve your workers best efforts.
Food vendors and some restaurants close during the day and some
restaurants stop serving alcohol. The government closes night entertainment
centers during the beginning and end of Ramadhan and shortens their hours
throughout the month.
You won't have any trouble finding seating at restaurants throughout Jakarta
for lunch, but dinner may be more difficult. Buffets catering to those
breaking their fast at sunset offer a delicious array of Indonesian
You may be awoken early in the morning by the enthusiastic young people
parading through the neighborhood

(DON'T tell them to be quiet -this would be extremely offensive, just
quietly endure.) Food prices rise dramatically as Lebaran nears.
Your household staff will want to take one to two weeks off to visit their
family in the village and you'll be left to cope without a cook, driver,
watchman and helpers. Consequently restaurants do a brisk trade during this
period as families eat out more often than usual.
A one month bonus is commonly paid to all household staff and salaried
employees in offices and factories near the end of the fasting month. This is
referred to as THR (tay-ha-err) Tunjangan Hari Raya, or bulan ketigabelas
- the 13th month. An increased level of patience and tolerance is required of
workers who are fasting. Do not speak harshly with those fasting as if they get
angry or have negative feelings towards others it invalidates their fasting
for that day.
Traffic jams from the afternoon rush hour start earlier as many office
workers leave earlier than usual to break the fast with family and friends.
It's difficult to schedule travel in Indonesia near the end of Ramadhan due
to the annual exodus of city dwellers to their hometowns.


At the end of this month of religious observance is the Eid holiday, called
Idul Fitri or Lebaran in Indonesia.
Traditionally this is the time when Muslims visit their family and friends
to ask for forgiveness for any wrongs they have committed in the previous
year. They express this wish in the phrase "Mohon Maaf Lahir Batin",
forgive me for my body and soul.
Traditional foods are consumed, family and friends gather to ask
forgiveness and exchange greetings, new clothing is worn, children receive
gifts of money and visits are made to recreational parks-- all to celebrate
the successful completion of the fasting month. Prior to Lebaran, visits are
made to the graves of family ancestors (nyekar) to pay respects, clean the
grave and leave flowers, causing major traffic jams near all major
cemeteries in Jakarta.

Idul Fitri begins with mass gatherings for prayers at mosques, open fields,
parks and major streets. On the walk home quick visits are made to
friends in the neighborhood to ask for forgiveness.

Strongly held traditions to visit family at this time necessitate the exodus of
3 1/2 million (yes million!) people from Jakarta alone, as well as countless
thousands from other urban centers, to the villages for the Lebaran holiday.
The logistics of this exodus cause headaches for the government each year.
During this period the streets in Jakarta are nearly empty as the
population decreases by nearly one third. The hardships and inconveniences
endured by the travelers in overcrowded buses, trains and cars is
unbelievable, yet they feel that this is a small price to pay to spend the
holidays with their family and friends. Traditionally these urban dwellers
come bearing gifts or money earned during the previous year for their family.

They return from the exodus accompanied by relatives and friends looking for
work in the cities, furthering the pressures of urbanization. The government
attempts to prevent the "socially undesirable" such as beggars, vagrants and
others from migrating to the cites, but the task is overwhelming.

During the weeks after Lebaran many groups hold halal bilhalal gatherings
where employees from a company, friends, colleagues or members of
an organization can gather to ask each other's forgiveness.

Various Traditions Associated with Ramadhan and Lebaran:

Bazar/Pasar Amal Organized by various civic and charitable organizations,
goods are sold at discounted prices to help the poor celebrate the holidays
with new clothing and special foods.

Bedug Lebaran The traditional bedug drums are beat at maghrib to notify the
faithful that it is time to break the fast. They are also beat in the takbiran
celebrations on the eve of Lebaran, either in stationary locations, or
in parades through the streets.

Bingkisan Lebaran Elaborately wrapped parcels are given by business
colleagues or associates to Muslims in the week prior to Lebaran.
They are usually arranged in a rattan or wood basket and contain food, small
household appliances or dishes.

Buka Puasa Breaking the fast, the meal at sunset.

Busana Muslim Fashionable Muslim apparel worn for festive occasions such
as Lebaran.

Kartu Lebaran Many people send greeting cards to their Muslim
friends (whether they themselves are Muslim or not). For sale in shops
throughout the city, Lebaran card designs should not depict people or
animals. Geometric designs, mosques, traditional textiles or ketupat are
common. Most cards have the date of 1 Syawal 141_ H written on the card.
You need to fill in the appropriate year in the space. In January 1999 the
Hijriah year at Lebaran is 1419. In late 1999 it will be 1420, etc.
Calligraphy artists design specialized cards for customers on sidewalks near
post offices and major market areas.

Ketupat Traditionally eaten at Lebaran, the ketupat casing is made of young
coconut frond leaves that are still light green in color. Intricately
woven by nimble fingered experts who can complete the weaving in
10 seconds, they are sold to the public at pasar (traditional markets).
The ketupat are filled with uncooked rice then steamed before serving with
various accompanying vegetable and meat dishes (opor and sambal goreng),
often cooked in spicy coconut milk. The coconut leaf casing gives a unique
flavor to the rice, one always associated with Lebaran.

Korma Dates from Iraq, Tunisia, the US and Saudi Arabia make their annual
appearance in markets and supermarkets for the breaking of the fast.

Mudik The term for the exodus of millions of people from the urban centers
to the villages in order to celebrate the Idul Fitri holiday with family and
friends in the village.

Puasa Fasting

Sungkem The Javanese custom of asking for forgiveness at Idul Fitri which
demonstrates the respect given by young people to the family elders.
The young person kneels and bows their head to the elders' knees and
asks for forgiveness.

Santunan Ramadhan Donations to a charitable organization for distribution
to the poor and needy at Lebaran.

Sembayang or shalat Ritual prayers that must be made five times each day
by Muslims.

Takbiran The prayer celebration on the evening of the last day of Ramadhan,
to herald in the Idul Fitri holiday.

Chants are praised to Allah, drums are beat endlessly, dances, songs,
religious prayers and sermons are given in public displays of excitement
and praise.

Zakat The obligatory poor tax that is paid by Muslims during the Lebaran
period. Zakat should total 6% of one's income. Zakat is paid to charitable
organizations, neighborhood groups or through direct distribution to the
poor and needy in the neighborhood.

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