5 Notable Ramadan Traditions in Indonesia

May 16, 2019

Ramadan has always been one of the most highly anticipated months throughout the year, especially for many Moslems all across the provinces. Not only because Ramadan is regarded as a grand observance, but people are also looking forward to participate in varieties of traditions which only existed around Ramadan. Sahur on the road and Ngabuburit are probably the easiest way to describe Ramadan traditions in Indonesia in a nutshell – but of course things are a lot larger than it seems.
With over 300 ethnic groups and 700 regional languages, cultural diversity is something that can’t be separated from many important aspects in this country – including religious observance such as Ramadan. So, it is no surprising to find that people from all across the provinces welcome the holy month of Ramadan with their own twists. From baking hundreds of traditional snack called Apem to having a feast with friends and families, here are five most notable Ramadan traditions in Indonesia that you might want to join next year!

1.    Apeman – Yogyakarta
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At first, Apeman or Jumenengan is held as means to celebrate Sultan’s ascensions to the throne – since many locals believed that Apem cake symbolizes gratitude. But, many years had passed since the first Apeman was held in Yogyakarta, the main purpose of this tradition has now widened and shifted. Amongst many districts and villages in Yogyakarta, Sosromenduran is probably a region that understands this tradition by heart - since the locals never miss the chance to participate every single year. Bringing the elements of original Apeman tradition to the table, people will gather around Sosrowijayan Street just a few days before Ramadan to cook hundreds of Apem. The Apem will then be given for free to the locals as well as tourists who stroll around Malioboro, as a gesture of kindness and gratitude.

2.    Nyorog – Jakarta
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For some people, the word Nyorog might sound quite unfamiliar to their ears and there’s an unfortunate reason for that. Many years ago, Jakarta’s native or also known as Betawi people, known to have a unique tradition called Nyorog to welcome the holy month of Ramadan. One of the easiest way to describe this tradition is probably by looking at the Arabic word Silaturahmi, which is quite similar in terms of its definition – maintaining good relationship with friends and families throughout one’s life. But, what makes Nyorog different truly lays in the presence of Betawi’s authentic cuisine during the event itself. Few days before Ramadan is officially started, younger relatives will visit their older relatives while bringing their home-cooked Sayur Gabus Pucung with them. Sayur Gabus Pucung was chosen as the staple of Nyorog due to its close relation with Betawi’s culture. Apart from the traditional soup dishes, common grocery items such as rice, cooking oil, sugar, coffee, and syrup will also be given to relatives as a form of gratitude towards God.

3.    Munggahan – West Java

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Derived from Sundanesse word ‘Munggah’ which means ‘Up,’ Munggahan has a deeper philosophy behind its concise translation. The native people of West Java believes that Ramadan is the best chance for us to become much better individuals by building a closer relationship to God. Hence, Munggahan was born, not only as a way to welcome the holy month of Ramadan, but also a reminder that we have to become the best version of ourselves around this time of year. There are series of events which then led to the staple of Munggahan, family gathering or a huge feast, and it all started with pilgrimage to close relatives’ graves. Many people believe that pilgrimage is a way of honoring and remembering their dearly departed family members, hence this tradition becomes rather popular especially around special moment such as Ramadan. After the pilgrimage was conducted, families will gather to share some quality time together – a rare moment especially for those who have been wrapped up with hectic schedule every day. Last but not least, Munggahan will be closed by a festive family lunch or dinner, which can make your Ramadan even more special.

4.    Balimau – Minangkabau, West Sumatera
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According to historians, Balimau was emerged around the 19th century, where colonial government still runs the country. At that time, many people who lived around Minangkabau Highland area were using lime as a substitution of soap – hence the word Balimau was born. As time goes by, the locals were started to link this tradition with religious observance such as Ramadan, since it is widely believed that Balimau can also symbolizes rebirth as well as body, mind, and spirit cleansing. For those who haven’t heard about this unique tradition before, the process is actually quite simple – people from all across the districts will gather at a river or lake, before participating in a spiritual purification through showering. If you are interested to join the festivity of Balimau, don’t forget to book yourself a trip to West Sumatera a few days before Ramadan.

5.    Assuro Maca - Makassar, South Sulawesi
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As the fifth largest urban city in Indonesia with over 87% Islam devotees, it is no secret that Ramadan in the City of Daeng has always been far from ordinary – and Assuro Maca is a great example for that. Define as ‘activity of praying,’ the locals believe that this tradition has been practiced by their ancestors every Ramadan for as long as they can remember. Thus, skipping one Assuro Maca would probably be a great disappointment for some people. According to several religious figures in Makassar, Assuro Maca plays the role as a symbol of gratitude and harmony. The food which will be served during the ceremony symbolizes gratitude towards God, while the feast symbolizes harmonious life between friends and families. For those of you who are interested to join the festivity of Assuro Macca next year, make sure you pay Makassar a visit at least a week before the holy month is started!