By Anne Dickson (Semester 23/Aug 2006)
University of New South Wales

*After experiencing Lebaran in Yogyakarta, Anne Dickson posted the following on the blog she kept during her ACICIS year.

Approaching the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the whole of Indonesia was on the move. People travelled home to celebrate Idul Fitri/Lebaran – the “Ramadan-is-over” festival.

We have had a week off uni and one by one in the days before Lebaran, the girls in my kos left, heading back to their homes in other parts of Java and Indonesia. I am very thankful to have been able to spend Lebaran with a Javanese Muslim family – Dewi’s family.

I went to Dewi’s house on Sunday afternoon and we broke the fast for the last time at sundown. It was the last night of Ramadan so kids gathered at their local mosques to start their parade carrying torches and paper lanterns. Dewi took me to a local field where we watched the whole parade.

The kids had made their lanterns (with parental help I’m sure!) in the shape of smiley faces, hearts or stars. Some carried models of mosques, the Qu’ran, the Kaaba (in Mecca), aeroplanes, army tanks, buses and sailing boats. The kids were very cute and dressed up for the parade. The atmosphere was exciting and noisy – with chanting in Arabic, marching bands and fireworks. It was all quite a spectacle!

Early Monday morning, Dewi’s family went to the Southern Town Square for the special mass prayer gathering. I borrowed a headscarf and joined the crowds of pedestrians heading for the Square. I sat with Dewi and her mum in the women’s section. It was interesting to watch so many people performing their prayers together. After that, we went to the local mosque where there were short speeches and then a greet-athon. All the women shook hands with all the other women! So that was a lot of handshakes.

On Tuesday morning I saw the ‘Grebeg Poso’ procession with Agung, Dewi’s brother. The palace guard units marched out of the palace dressed in their bright outfits and armed with various weapons. The Sultan was away so he was represented by his younger brother. At the end of the procession the ‘gunungan’, a large mound of food, was carried. The procession ended at the mosque, where the gunungan was fought over. The food is considered (by some) to be sacred so people snatched what they could. A weird and fascinating tradition.

At lunch time, the family function for Dewi’s dad’s side of the family was held next door at a cafe. It was interesting to meet various relatives and eat more yummy food. It also included another handshake greet-athon – an efficient and nice way to acknowledge the presence of everyone else.

In the afternoon, relatives from Jakarta dropped by at the house and I enjoyed hearing Dewi’s family relate their experiences of the May earthquake. Later in the afternoon, we drove to Magelang in Central Java, where some relatives of Dewi’s mum live. It was the first time I’ve been out of the special province of Yogya. Well well.

So Lebaran was a really fun time and it was an amazing cultural experience to see all the celebrations.