Lebaran or Idul Fitri is the popular name for Eid al-Fitr in Indonesia and is one of the major national holiday in the country. Lebaran holiday officially lasts for two days in the Indonesian calendar, although the government usually declares a few days before and after the Lebaran as a bank holiday. Many individuals or families, especially Muslims take paid time off from their workplace during these days.
"Idul Fitri" is Indonesian spelling of Arabic "Eid al-Fitr". While "lebaran" is localized name for this festive occasion, the etymology is not clear. It is suggested derived from Javanese word lebar which means "finished", then the word "lebar" is absorbed into Indonesian language with additional suffix "-an", so it becomes a common vocabulary for a celebration when the fasting ritual is "finished”, or derived from Sundanese word lebar which means "abundance" or "many" to describe the abundance of foods and delicacies served for visiting guests; family, relatives, neighbors and friends during this festive occasion. Another theory suggested, "lebaran" is derived from Betawi, lebar which means "wide and broad", so the celebration means to broaden or widen one's heart feeling after fasting ritual of Ramadhan. Madurese people have also a similar word called lober to describe the completion of Ramadhan fast. It is also possible the word 'lebaran' derived from the word luber > luber-an > lebaran, which means overflow or flocking.
The term lebaran usually used specific to describe Eid al-Fitr Islamic holiday, however in looser terms it sometimes used to describe similar festivals and celebrations. For example in Indonesian the term lebaran haji (lit: hajj's lebaran) is informally used to describe Eid al-Adha, also lebaran cina (lit:Chinese lebaran) for Chinese New Year. Christmas however, although bearing similarity in abundance of foods, is never referred to as lebaran, but just Natal or natalan instead.
The Lebaran etymology was derived from Javanese word, and according to Indonesian Muslim scholar Umar Khayam, lebaran tradition was the result of acculturation between Javanese culture and Islam during the 15th-century. According to Javanese traditions, the local lebaran tradition of Idul Fitri was first started when Sunan Bonang, one of Wali Songo of Tuban in 15th-century Java, calls for the Muslims to elevate the perfection of their Ramadhan fast by asking forgiveness and forgiving others' wrongdoings. The asking and giving for forgiveness during Eid ul Fitr is quite unique among Indonesian Muslims, that did not occur among Muslims of Middle East, Indian subcontinent or elsewhere. Most of world Muslims would only expressed Eid Mubarak (blessed Eid).
Other lebaran traditions that uniquely local and derived from Javanese traditions are sungkem and consuming ketupat. Sungkem is Javanese tradition to ask for blessing and forgiveness from parents, grandparents and elders. The parents sitting on the chair while the children and youngsters bowing deep with their nose tip touches their hands that rest upon parents' laps. It is the sign of humility, expressing dedication and honoring parents and elders. Another tradition is consuming ketupat or kupat in Javanese language. The tradition on preparing and consuming ketupat during lebaran is believed to be introduced by Sunan Kalijaga, one of Wali Songo that spread Islam in Java, as it contains some symbolism. It is believed that kupat means ngaku lepat or "admitting one's mistakes" in Javanese. The crossed weaving of palm leafs symbolizes mistakes and sins committed by human beings, and the inner whitish rice cake symbolize purity and deliverance from sins after observing Ramadhan fast, prayer and rituals. Other than Java, the tradition on consuming ketupat during Eid ul Fitr is also can be found throughout Indonesia; from Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara, also to neighboring Malaysia.
Prior to Lebaran
Additionally, in Indonesia Idul Fitri has a legally mandated salary bonus for all employees, known as Tunjangan Hari Raya (THR) as initially enforced by Indonesia's Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration (Kementerian Tenaga Kerja dan Transmigrasi) in 1950s. The mandated amount of this salary bonus differs by region. For example, within the Jakarta region it must not be less than one month's full salary paid in advance of Idul Fitri, in addition to the employee's regular salary. Thus, Idul Fitri is also a paid holiday. Breaching or withholding THR is a very serious labour law infraction and punished severely, regardless of employer status or position.
For Lebaran, Indonesians usually will buy and wear new clothes and footwear. Shopping malls and bazaars are usually filled with people to get things for Lebaran such as clothes, footwear, even food to serve days ahead of Idul Fitri, which creates a distinctive festive atmosphere throughout the country, along with traffic mayhem around shopping malls.
Lebaran also creates special occasions for shopping that often generate seasonal retail business. As the result retail businesses will try to attracts shoppers with special Lebaran discounts, Lebaran-themed decorations, and playing joyous Lebaran-themed or Islamic musics in their stores. The festive shopping feel is quite similar with Christmas for Christians, however the things bought (usually fashion apparels), is rather for oneself, not as a gift. Many banks, government and private offices are closed for the duration of the Lebaran festivities.
One of the largest temporary human migrations globally is the prevailing custom of the Lebaran where workers, particularly unskilled labourers such as maids and construction workers, return to their home town or city to celebrate with their families and to ask forgiveness from parents, in-laws, and other elders. This is known in Indonesia as mudik or pulang kampung (homecoming). It is an annual tradition that people in big cities such as Greater Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, or elsewhere, travel to their hometowns or other cities to visit relatives, to ask forgiveness, or just to celebrate with the whole family. The government of Indonesia provides additional transportation to handle the massive surge of travellers in several days prior and after the lebaran. In 2013 there are around 30 million people travels to their hometowns during lebaran holiday, brought and spend the total sum of money around 90 trillion rupiah (around US$ 9 billion) from main urban centers to rural areas, pulsing economic opportunities and business from the city to the villages. The numbers of Indonesians that took mudik or pulang kampung travel is quite tremendous, the numbers is slightly equal with the whole population of Malaysia hit the road altogether, causing massive traffic jams and a sudden rise of demand and volume of intercity transportations.
The impact is indeed tremendous as millions of cars and motorcycles jam the roads and highways, causing kilometres of traffic jams each year. The annual massive congestion usually occurs along Java's Northern Coast Road. Additionally, the wealthier classes often go to local hotels or overseas to accommodate the absence of their domestic servants, drivers and even security guards. Singaporean, Malaysian and Indonesian hotels have been particularly successful marketing lucrative Lebaran or Idul Fitri "escape package".
The night before Idul Fitri is called takbiran, filled with the sounds of bedug drums and many muezzin chanting the takbir in the mosques or musallahs. In larger cities people usually fill the streets and also chanting takbir in their cars and motorcycles, which often creating the night with traffic jam. In some instances fireworks and firecrackers might be ignited, however these actions is discouraged by police officers as it could be dangerous to lit these explosives over the crowd. In many parts of Indonesia, especially in the rural areas, pelita, obor or lampu tempel (oil lamps, similar to tiki torches) are lit up and placed outside and around homes.
On the Lebaran day, after performing Eid prayer in the morning, people dressed in their new or best clothes will gather to greet their family and neighbours. It is common to greet people with "Selamat Idul Fitri" which means "Happy Eid". Muslims also greet one another with "mohon maaf lahir dan batin", which means "Forgive my physical and emotional (wrongdoings)", because Idul Fitri is not only for celebrations but also a time for atonement to ask for forgiveness for sins which they may have committed but was cleansed as a result of the fasting in the Muslim month of Ramadan. From the morning to afternoon, the zakat alms for the poor are usually distributed in mosques.
Families usually will have special Lebaran meal served during breakfast, brunch or lunch; special dishes will be served such as ketupat, opor ayam, rendang, sambal goreng ati, sayur lodeh and lemang (a type of glutinous rice cake cooked in bamboo). Various types of snacks; roasted peanuts, kue, cookies, dodol and imported dates sweet delicacies are also served during this day, together with fruit syrup beverages. The lively or alternatively very emotional devotional music blended with Quranic verses associated with Ramadan and Eid – known as Kaisidah or more correctly, Qasida – can be heard throughout the country. These are commonly performed by famous musicians, some of whom may be international stars, and televised nationwide.
Silaturrahmi and lebaran money
Younger families usually visit their older neighbours or relatives to wish and greet them a Happy Eid also to ask for forgiveness. During these visits, it is a customs for older, established or married couple to give uang lebaran, small amount of moneys for children's of their own, relatives' as well as neighbours'. Idul Fitri is a very joyous day for children as adults give them money in colourful envelopes. To cater for this customs, Indonesian Banks and Bank Indonesia usually open some money changer counters to change larger to smaller denominations several days prior to Lebaran. The denominations may vary from 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 to 10,000 rupiah. The sudden rise of demands on goods (especially food) and service (especially transportation), and the pulsing and distribution of newly printed small denomination bank notes from the central bank, has caused Indonesian economy a seasonal inflation annually.
It is customary for Muslim-Indonesians to wear a traditional clothing on Eid al-Fitr. The male outfit is known as baju koko: a collarless long or short-sleeve shirt with traditional embroidered designs with a "kilt" sarung of songket, ikat or similar woven, plaid-cloth. Alternatively, they may wear either Western-style business suits or more traditional loose-fitting trousers with colour-matched shirts, and either a peci hat or regional cultural headwear and songkok. The Malay variant worn in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Southern Thailand and parts of Indonesia (especially in Sumatera and Kalimantan) is known as the Baju Melayu, shirt worn with a sarong known as kain samping or songket and a headwear known as songkok.
Traditional female dress is known as kebaya kurung. It consists of, normally, a loose-fitting kebaya blouse (which may be enhanced with brocade and embroidery), a long skirt both of which may be batik, or the sarung skirt made of batik, ikat or songket and either the jilbab (hijab) or its variant the stiffened kerudung Veil.
Non-Austronesian Muslims, or even non-Muslims may don costumes of their respective culture and tradition, or Islamic clothes to show respect to their relatives' or friends' differing religious beliefs for the occasion. This is particularly common in Indonesia, where many families have close friends or relatives of differing faiths, namely Catholic, some Protestant, some Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim.
It is common for many Muslims in Indonesia to visit the graves of loved ones several days before Ramadhan. During this visit, they will clean the grave, recite Ya-Seen, a chapter (sura) from the Quran and also perform the tahlil ceremony. All these are done as a means to ask God to forgive both the dead and the living for their sins. The Javanese majority of Indonesia are known for their pre-Islamic Kejawen traditions of washing the headstone using scented water from the traditional terracotta water-jug, the kendi, and sprinkling hyacinth and jasmine over the graves.
Several days after lebaran usually marked with arus balik (returning waves) of mudik lebaran (lebaran home-coming). People returning to cities of their workplaces from their hometowns, and just like the mudik lebaran it create massive temporary migrations that requires large amount of transportation for travellers that often resulted in gridlock traffic.
In Indonesia there is a special ritual called halal bi-halal. During this, Muslim Indonesians visit their elders, in the family, the neighbourhood, or their work, and show respect to them. This could be done during or several days after Idul Fitri. Usually core family and neighbour first during first day of Idul Fitri, further relatives in the next day, and work colleagues in days to weeks later after they get back to work. They will also seek reconciliation (if needed), and preserve or restore harmonious relations.
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- Govt says roads ready for Lebaran exodus. The Jakarta Post – 2 September 2010
- van Doorn-Harder, Nelly. "Southeast Asian culture and Islam". Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim world. p. 649
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