Christmas in Indonesia: Churches guarded by police

| Tim Bussmann

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Yet, each corner of the world celebrates this holiday a bit differently. In this series we will shed some light on Christmas traditions of UT international students. In this episode we meet with Mark Kenny Williams, Creative Technology student from Indonesia.

Could you tell us something about Christmas in your country?

‘Christmas is one of the big religious events in Indonesia, even though 80% of its population are Muslims. Usually, Indonesian Christians celebrate it by going to Christmas services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Having police officers guarding cathedrals and some other churches is a normal sight. In big cities, you could see huge plastic Christmas trees with colourful ornaments in shopping malls along with other Christmas decorations. You could also see Sinterklaas (yes, we call it the same way Dutch people do but it looks more like the American Santa Claus) and Zwarte Piet giving candies, chocolates, and taking photos with small kids.’

What is a unique Christmas tradition in your country?

‘In my opinion, there is no unique Christmas tradition in the city where I live, Jakarta. In my family, we would decorate a Christmas tree together at home before Christmas. Then on Christmas Day itself, we’d exchange gifts in the morning, go to church, and have family gatherings. When I was little, my parents used to tell me if I don’t behave well then Zwarte Piet would put me in the sack and take me somewhere else. In addition, we would have cookies like kastengel and nastar (pineapple tart).’

What do you expect from a Dutch Christmas?

‘I expect Dutch Christmas would be pretty much the same, especially the gift-giving part, Sinterklaas, Zwarte Piet and the church services. Before I came to the Netherlands, I imagined it would be a white Christmas like in the movies, but all I get is rain...’

How are you going to celebrate Christmas this year?

‘Since I was raised Catholic, I will go to church. I’ll send postcards to my family, listen to Christmas songs and probably eat together with loved ones.’