7 Indonesian Ways to Celebrate New Year’s Eve: From Jakarta to Other Cities
Indonesia welcomes the New Year just like any other country in the world; with colourful big fireworks and blaring thumping trumpets with family and friends, or come to hotels, resorts, or bars that host New Year’s Eve events. Some Indonesian also celebrate New Year’s Eve by convoys traveling around the city using cars and motorbikes with family and friends. However, some cities in Indonesia have their own unique traditional way to see the clock tick over to welcome the New Year on New Year’s Eve.
If you are in Indonesia this New Year’s Eve and want to try something new and exciting, do try celebrating it Indonesian way. Here are 7 cities in Indonesia with their own unique traditions to celebrate New Year’s Eve!
1. Jakarta: Gambang Kromong Orchestra & Mass Wedding
In Jakarta, on New Year’s Eve, the main streets are usually jammed by people who celebrate New Year’s Eve while thumping their trumpets.
The Governor of Jakarta usually hosted a New Year’s Eve party for the people by holding music concerts, bazaars, and even conducting a mass wedding. The music concerts are usually enlivened by many dangdut singers as dangdut is one of the most beloved music in Indonesia. The bazaars are usually varied from small or medium local business merchants. Also, the mass wedding will be conducted by the government to give the opportunity for unwealthy couples to get married legally under state law.
Just last year, the government of Jakarta held a New Year’s Eve party at a total of 7 different spots:
- Car Free Night from 17.00 – 24.00 WIB at MH Thamrin to Dukuh Atas Culture Spot Street,
- Mass Wedding, Wedding’s Itsbat, and marawis at City Hall’s yard,
- Music concert at Bundaran HI area,
- Music concert at Monas Southwest Gate,
- Gambang kromong at Wahid Hasyim Street,
- Gambus and Fashion Show at Dukuh Atas Culture Spot, and
- Music concert and fireworks party at Ancol.
So, if you happen to stay around Jakarta, make sure to pop by those areas to enjoy the New Year’s Eve the Jakartans way.
2. Medan, North Sumatra: A Night in Lake Toba
There are two common options to celebrate your New Year’s Eve at around Medan: stay in the city or head south to Lake Toba. Every year, the government of Medan always held a fireworks party that also filled with local music performances and a bazaar around Merdeka Square. The government of Medan also usually held a dhikr and prayers together at Merdeka Square’s gazebo to wish for Medan to be a better city than before.
However, if you’re not a fan of parties or busy areas, you can set out to Lake Toba – the world’s deepest, and one of Indonesia’s largest volcanic lake. There, you can watch the fireworks with your family or friends while also enjoying the tranquil and untouched nature of Lake Toba’s breathtaking landscape at night. In order for you to go to Lake Toba, it takes about six hours by car from Medan plus an hour’s ferry ride to Samosir Island or you can take two hours away direct flight from Jakarta to Silangit International Airport at Lake Toba.
3. Dieng, Central Java: Lantern Festival
Every year on New Year’s Eve in Dieng, there is a Lantern Festival. The people on Dieng usually climb into the peak of the Sikunir Hill to release the lanterns while also enjoying the landscape city skyline of Dieng at night.
The sight of all the lanterns against the dark sky creates a serene atmosphere that makes the sky filled with golden “stars”.
Before this tradition began, people of Dieng usually lit up a thousand candles along Lake Cebong instead. However, ever since the water levels in the lake began receding which made the bed of the lake visible to the eyes, this tradition has been long gone.
The Lantern Festival on Dieng is also a popular New Year’s Eve celebration among tourists. Every year, there were at least 2.000 to 3.000 tourists from all over the world who came to attend this event. So if you are interested in attending this festival, make sure that you come earlier so that you don’t get stuck in a flood of tourists!
4. Surakarta, Central Java: Keroncong Music & Shadow Puppets
Ever since fireworks and firecrackers have been banned in Surakarta since 2018, the government chooses to celebrate New Year’s Eve with the people of Surakarta in a more down to earth way.
Known for its traditional arts and cultures, people in Surakarta aim to celebrate their New Year’s Eve by commemorating its art. They usually completely shut down the roads between Slamet Riyadi Street from Purwosari to Gladag and perform their own traditional arts.
This New Year’s Eve celebration consists of a variety of traditional arts like gamelan and dance events, jazz, keroncong, and wayang kulit. The highlight of the event is the ringing of sirens and gong by the Mayor of Surakarta at the end of the year.
For those of you who want to celebrate your New Year’s Eve in a more Indonesian traditional way, or if you adore Indonesian, especially Javanese, traditional arts so much, do come to Surakarta and enjoy your night with the people of Surakarta.
5. Yogyakarta and Magelang: Shadow Puppets & Lantern in Borobudur
In Yogyakarta, you also have two options to spend your New Year’s eve: watching the ball drop, like the one in Times Square, in Yogyakarta Palace and Malioboro or you can enjoy the more religious Lantern Festival in Borobudur.
The people of Yogyakarta usually gather at the North Square of the Yogyakarta Palace and count the clock to New Year then enjoy the display of the spectacular sight of fireworks lighting up the Yogyakarta night sky. After that, you can head straight to the famous Malioboro Street where you can enjoy the traditional wayang kulit show performs by famous Dalang (Wayang performers) that will be held for all night long.
For a more religious tradition, you can head to Borobudur, in Magelang (Central Java) to celebrate your New Year’s Eve in a temple. There will be several live art performances, like traditional music and dances, in front of the temple. There will also be a Lantern Festival in which numerous LED lanterns will be released as a symbol of gratitude and prayer for the passing year and as well as hope that the coming year would be better than the last.
The government decided to use LED lanterns after the incident with normal fire lanterns happened a few years ago. Hence every year, at least 1.000 to 1.500 LED lanterns are released into the sky by locals and tourists.
6. Denpasar, Bali: Cultural and Culinary Festival
In Bali, they have Denpasar Festival since 2008 that commemorates the passing year and signifies happiness and sustainability to welcome the New Year. The festival starts on 28 December until the New Year and is usually convene at the Patung Catur area of Gadjah Mada Street in Denpasar.
This festival usually consists of cultural exhibitions, seminars, talk shows, and traditional art performances that aimed at allowing tourists across the globe to experience the diversity and cultural richness of Bali.
There will also be a food festival where you can find vast collections of fresh seafood and local delicacies such as Lak-lak Bali, Lawar, Nasi Campur Bali, and even contemporary food such as gelatos and pastries.
So if you are interested, just pack your bags and come to Denpasar to experience all of that!
7. Toraja, South Sulawesi: Pesona Kemilau Toraja
In Toraja, there is a must-see New Year celebration that starts on 1 December up to 1 January. Literally the entire month, local people name it Lovely Toraja or Lovely December which is now Pesona Kemilau Toraja.
There are so many things to see in this huge event, such as Getaran Sukma Suci, Coffee Festival, Culinary Festival, and various Christmas events. Regardless of whether you are a caffeine addict, biking enthusiast, or a camera hog, there is something for everyone here.
On New Year’s Eve, this event will hold Folk Art Performances, Ma Barattung, and the Fireworks Party. This event targets promoting Toraja as the ‘New Bali’ for tourists by introducing them to Toraja’s rich culture, arts, and cuisine.
Unfortunately, this event is called off this year due to COVID-19 situation in Indonesia.
Those are all 7 cities in Indonesia that have their own unique and traditional ways to celebrate the New Year’s Eve, if you happen to be there or around there, make sure that you visit one of those cities to experience it yourself!