New Year's Eve in Bali is an invariable part of Hindu tradition. On the island of the Gods, the holiday is not given much importance. However, there are many colorful and unusual ceremonies on the eve of New Year's Eve.
When do they celebrate the New Year in Bali?
In Bali, there are two ways of keeping chronological records. In addition to the traditional version, the ancient Balinese calendar is used, in which 2018 is equal to 1940. The new year does not come in winter, as in the rest of the world, but in spring. It falls on the equinox and marks the beginning of the Hindu Saka era. Legend has it that this calendar was brought to Indonesia by the Javanese King Aji Saka. It was enacted in 78 A.D.
Three days before New Year's Day, the first milestone holiday, Melasti, is celebrated. The date is set by the local council. If the villagers decide, Melasti takes place much earlier. The purpose of the holiday is to purify two worlds: the small (the human soul and body) and the big (the universe).
Purification takes place from evil thoughts. It is believed that during this period one comes into balance with God and nature. At the foot of the holy springs, the Balinese perform divine rituals. Dressed in white robes, they consecrate objects that formerly belonged to Arca, Pratima and Pralingga.
The water from them represents eternal life. The colorful procession is decorated with bamboo, and its performers with martial blades fall into a trance now and then. Those present are sprinkled with holy water several times. In the villages, animals become the object of sacrifice.
By evening, it's the turn of the Wow-oh parade. As the sun goes down, the grand show begins. Residents of Bali circle the streets with homemade monsters. The monsters are so large that wicker stretchers are used to move them.
Torches are an indispensable element of the procession - it is believed that fire prevents demons from entering the subconscious and cleanses the house of bad energy. The island fills with the rhythms of gamelan, there is noise everywhere, and incense burns. Hundreds of men in brightly colored skirts relax and celebrate the coming holiday.
Roads are blocked and it is not possible to move on them. For several days, tourists and residents of Ubud have to postpone scheduled business and travel. After the procession, the grandiose figures are burned or taken away to decorate their homes. Some prefer to sell them to collectors.
After the Ogo-go parade, the most important part of the Balinese New Year's celebration begins: the Day of Silence. The ban on outside entertainment and work begins at 6:00 a.m. and lasts for 24 hours. Locals pray and meditate. They have the opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the past year. The first day of the New Year is called Ngembak Geni, the family day. The closest people visit the temple and ask for forgiveness, and then gather around the same table for dinner.
All day long, residents of Bali are not allowed to use fire. The ban also applies to electricity, so the preparation of food should be taken care of in advance. People close doors and windows and turn off lights. Law enforcers can throw a stone through the window of a house where the light is on.
Prohibition of work
On the Day of Silence it is forbidden to work in Bali. The holiday is official throughout Indonesia. Other islands have no curfew, but work is still not allowed. Institutions, schools and hospitals are closed. Even ATMs do not work.
On the Day of Silence, Bali airport closes and flights are canceled. It is forbidden to talk or laugh loudly. All streets are empty. Only emergency services are allowed to move freely.
Ban on Entertainment
Entertainment is commonly understood as food, music and alcohol. The hotels do not approve of entertaining events either. Some people are not strict about this prohibition: they listen to music and watch movies without attracting attention. Spiritual leaders prefer to spend the day in complete silence.
How tourists celebrate the New Year in Bali
Tourists cannot deviate from local traditions. They are just as obliged to honor and respect local traditions as the islanders. Failure to observe the prohibitions will cause discontent with the vigilantes. You can be detained until morning, and the arrest will cost a lot of money.
A few tips for tourists
- If you want to visit Bali for the New Year, book your tickets and lodging in advance. Ideally six months in advance.
- After winter, the ocean current brings a lot of trash to the beaches of Kuta and Seminyak. To avoid spoiling your trip, limit your visits to them.
- March is the rainy season here. If you prefer clear weather to overcast skies, then choose another time to vacation.
- The day before Nyepi, make sure you have provisions and medicines. Get money from ATMs beforehand. Plan your trips so that you will be home by 6:00 a.m.