While Indonesia doesn’t have as many Easter traditions as some parts of the West, there are however significant Catholic and Christian populations that do commemorate the holy season here in this vibrant archipelago.
The core of the faith revolves around the Bible and the belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his crucifixion, but depending on culture and province, some customs and rituals may vary.
Easter festivities in main cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya and Manado have embraced more westernized customs. Those who celebrate would usually participate in a church service then spend the day with family and friends feasting on good food and adopting traditions such as the Easter Bunny and the Easter Egg hunt.
However, in other parts of Indonesia, the rituals and customs of Easter may have a more unique take.
In the town of Larantuka, East Flores, the local community celebrates Semana Santa (or otherwise known as Holy Week). This four day ritual commences with Rabu Trewa (Ash Wednesday) where congregations gather in chapels to pray and remember the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot. This also is a time where congregants mourn and reflect in order to purify the soul, therefore transforming the town into a Town of Mourning.
On Maundy Thursday, congregations participate in the Tikam Turo ritual where the following day’s 7km procession is prepared by placing candles along the road. Another ritual on this day takes place in the chapel of Tuan Ma (the Virgin Mary), where the statue of the Virgin Mary will be bathed and dressed in a piece of black, purple or blue velvet cloth to signify mourning.
The ritual reaches a peak on Good Friday or Sesta Vera which is the day of crucifixion. The highlight of Sesta Vera is when the statue of Jesus Christ is carried and placed at the centre of the ritual beside the statue of Mother Mary (Mater Dolorosa - the mourning mother).
The following Sabtu Santo (Holy Saturday) and Easter Sunday (the day of Resurrection), mark the end of the Holy Week.
Kure is an Easter tradition celebrated by community of Kote in the town of Noemuti, North Central Timor, Nusa Tenggara Timur. On Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, Catholics will walk as pilgrims from one house to another to pray together and reflect on the Passion of Jesus Christ.
The word Kure is derived from the Latin word ‘currere’ which means to run or to walk. Parishioners say that the tradition is a legacy of Portuguese missionaries who introduced it in 1642.
The ritual commences with the cleaning of crucifixes and statues of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary and ends with the offerings of money, fruits, vegetables and palm dedicated to God. These offerings are later distributed to the pilgrims, prayer groups and other attendees of the ritual.
In Central Kalimantan, the ritual of Momento Mori is celebrated by the Christian communities. Momento Mori is Latin for ‘remember you will die’ and it is believed that it was introduced in the 19th century, during the Dutch colonization.
This ritual is carried out on Holy Saturday and involves the congregation of family members at the burial sites of loved ones. The family will gather throughout the night until dawn the following day where they will light candles and arrange flowers above the grave sites. At the break of dawn on Easter Sunday, a tent will be provided by the church for pilgrims to continue their Easter celebrations and worship.