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Islamic New Year

Islamic New Year 2018 and 2019

Islamic New Year is one of the most important holidays for Indonesian Muslims. In Indonesian, Islamic New Year is known as Muharram.

YearDateDayHoliday
201811 SepTueIslamic New Year
20191 SepSunIslamic New Year
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Islamic New Year is a holiday that celebrates the arrival of a new year on the Islamic lunar calendar. This holiday also honors the founding of Islam and Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina. While Islamic New Year honours some important moments in Islam, the holiday in Indonesia also celebrates various cultural groups. Because of this, many people use Islamic New Year to support the Indonesian government’s slogan of “unity through diversity”.

A Brief History of Islamic New Year

The Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, returned to Mecca after receiving a quest from God to spread the teachings of Islam to the Arab world. When Muhammad attempted to spread the word of God in Mecca, he and his followers were shunned by a group of polytheistic pagans. Tensions between the Muslims and the pagans soon escalated. Eventually, Muhammad was forced to lead his people from Mecca to Medina. This event is known as the Hjira. The Hjira marks the beginning of Islam and the Islamic calendar.

Traditions

There are many traditions that people in Indonesia use to celebrate Islamic New Year. Many of these traditions cannot be found outside of Indonesia.

  • Parades

    In the Middle East, the Islamic New Year is a fairly quiet event with very few festivities. This is not the case in Indonesia. Indonesian Muslims enjoy parades that honor the founding of Islam. Floats, dancers, and various moving displays celebrate the Islamic New Year in these parades. In addition to Islamic themes, these parades also include Javanese flags and miscellaneous cultural icons. This is an indication that Indonesia values diversity.

  • Readings

    During Islamic New Year, many Indonesian Muslims will read scripture about Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina. After reading some of the most important verses about this event in the Quran, Indonesian Muslims will often have discussions with their friends and family members. Many people will also reflect on their own actions.

  • Lampah Mubeng Beteng

    One of the most unique Islamic New Year rituals is Lampah Mubeng Beteng. Lampah Mubeng Beteng is a palace march that takes place in Yogyakarta each year. Indonesian Muslims who reside in Yogyakarta will join the royal servants of the local palace to march around the perimeter of the palace property. During the Lampah Mubeng Beteng ritual, participants are not permitted to speak, eat, drink, or smoke. Instead, participants are expected to reflect on the glory of God and their own fortune. This is an opportunity for participants to be thankful for their situation in life. This ritual march occurs on New Year’s Eve.

  • Offerings

    In many of the rural communities of East Java, Indonesian Muslims provide offerings of food to honor God. Common offerings include fruit, rice, and vegetables. The offerings, or Gunungan, are laid out in a central location. After all of the offerings are gathered, a ritual known as Larung Pendam Sadi is performed. This is a ceremony that asks God for good fortune. It also shows God that the people of the community are thankful for the agricultural bounty that he has provided them.

  • Parade of Gunungan

    In some villages of East Java, it is a common practice for the offerings to God to be collected and paraded. As the Gunungan are paraded around a town or village, the locals will try to grab one of the offerings. If a person receives one of the offerings, they will have good fortune throughout the new year. Coins are often distributed to parade spectators.

  • City March

    In cities like Pontianak, many Indonesian Muslims will participate in long marches. During these marches, the participants will perform prayers and reflect on their lives. Like the Lampah Mubeng Beteng ritual, these marches allow participants to be thankful for their achievements in life.

  • Art and Music Competitions

    Art and music competitions are very common for students. These competitions are often centered around an Islamic idea, but some do not have a particular theme. One of the most popular art contests for students is based on car decorating.

  • Community Service

    It is a common practice for students to participate in a march along the streets near their school or university. During this march, the students will reflect on the Islamic New Year. They will also pick up garbage and clean up the area in any way that they can. Indonesian Muslims may also use their time off from work or school to help people who are less fortunate. Many people decide to give food or clothing to the homeless.

Islamic New Year, or Muharram, is an Indonesian public holiday that allows Indonesian Muslims to reflect on the founding of Islam while spending time with friends and family members.