A comparison of American and Indonesian holidays

In the United States, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day are amongst the biggest holidays and traditions celebrated. Seems to me the US celebrates most of its holidays and traditions based on its history. In Indonesia however, the biggest holidays comprised of mostly religious beliefs such as the birth of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, Chinese New Year, the Buddha’s birthday and the Islamic New Year.

One of the holidays I enjoy the most is the Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is the chance to show regard for those that have passed away and to gather with close family members. Chinese New Year is celebrated by the Chinese Indonesians who make up about three percent of the whole nation’s population.

According to custom, family members should use new outfits during the festivities. Chinese suppliers believe that the overall look and mindset of an individual on New Seasons Day sets the overall tone for buying. People often choose to put on red outfits and bright colors that will ensure the person wearing them good luck in the New Year.

What I like best about the Chinese New Year celebration is the gift giving. Parents give their kids “ang pao,” a small red package containing money. Close relatives such as uncles, aunts and grandparents. However, once you are wedded instead of getting an ang pao, you’re supposed to be the giver of ang pao.

Since I’ve been living in the United States, I have experienced two Thanksgivings. I’ve never really understood how Thanksgiving started off or why and how turkey became popular during thanksgiving day, all I know is it’s nice to have the presence of your close relatives every once in a while. Especially since a lot of people nowadays are so caught up with work.

In Indonesia, we do not have Memorial Day or Veterans Day. However, we do celebrate what’s called the Heroes’ Day. Heroes’ Day is annually celebrated on Nov 10. The day commemorates the 1945 Battle of Surabaya which was also a part of the Indonesian National Revolution.

As a Catholic Indonesian myself, I too celebrate Christmas in Indonesia. Even though Christmas is not as big of a celebration in Indonesia compared to in the United States, it is becoming more and more accepted nationwide. Since the majority of Indonesians are Muslims, sometimes minorities like the Buddhists, Hindus and Christians are not as well accepted. During Christmas time, people in Indonesia do not usually decorate the outside of their houses. We usually set up Christmas tree and decorate only the inside the house.

Since I used to live with a host family in Redmond, I spent last Christmas and the one before with them. One of my favorite activities during the Christmas celebration was the white elephant gift exchange.

Whether it’s a religious holiday or memorial tradition, the holiday celebrations above has a meaningful and important sense to different groups of people. All in all, these traditions mainly involve family gatherings, sharing, giving and commemoration which hopes to strengthen the bond between family members.