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Grebeg Sudiro 2016: Unique Chinese New Year Celebrations in the City of Solo


Every year the Chinese-Javanese communities of mixed descent in the city of Surakarta - better known as Solo - in Central Java celebrate Chinese New Year in what is known as the Grebeg Sudiro festivities. In 2016 Grebeg Sudiro will be held from 31 January – 8 February 2016 around the Pasar Gedhe area, Solo’s very own Chinatown. The area will light up with hundreds of lanterns, lion and dragon dances will be prancing along the streets accompanied by clashing cymbals and drumbeat, people in colorful traditional Chinese and Javanese costumes paraded, while contemporary royal dances from the keraton or palace of the Sultan of Solo and the royal house of Mangkunegaran will be performed along Jalan Sudiroprajan. The parade finishes at the Tien Kok Sie temple in front of Pasar Gedhe or the Grand Market.

Following Javanese tradition, and with no exception also at Chinese New Year, a huge mountain called gunungan will be carried around the streets, compiled of thousands of special Chinese New Year cakes, here called kue ranjang, or basket cakes. The Gunungan will be hoisted and carried by men around the Sudiroprajan streets, followed by displays of Chinese and Javanese performances. Highlight of the parade will be the lighting up of a large lantern on the main gate of Pasar Gedhe in the shape of a teapot, accompanied immediately by the lighting up of thousands of lanterns all across Solo’s Chinatown.

The word grebeg is taken from the Javanese language meaning celebrations for special occasions that include the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Iedul Fitri – the end of the fasting month, and Idul Adha. And like the other important occasions, highlight of the event is when the parade ends and all are welcome to jostle and grab for a piece from the pile of food, cakes or agricultural produce on the gunungan. This grab for all is based on the Javanese saying: “ora babah ora mamah”, meaning no effort no food. Whereas, the mountain of food expresses gratitude of the people of Java for the bounty bestowed on them by God Almighty.

The Grebeg Sudiro celebrations at Chinese New Year is proof that the Indonesian people of all races and ethnic groups, in particular in Central Java live in harmony regardless of race or religion based on centuries-long tradition of mutual respect. And even when preparing for this event both Chinese and Javanese work together in anticipation of the ritual of thanksgiving to God and nature.

The Sudiroprajan area is located in the sub-district of Jebres in the city of Solo, where Chinese and those of mixed descent have settled and lived side by side with the original Javanese communities. Through the ages their cultural traditions have fused and inter-marriage became common resulting in the fused celebrations of Chinese New Year called Gerebeg Sudiro.

Do not miss this one of a kind Chinese New Year celebration.

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