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Idul Fitri 'losing its color' in Jakarta JAKARTA - The fasting month of Ramadhan and Idul Fitri celebrations in Jakarta have lost much of their colorful cultural traditions, a senior citizen says. Republika daily newspaper writer Alwi Shahab remembers that Idul Fitri Eve in the 1940s and 1950s was a special time for Betawi (native Jakarta) women. Unlike on ordinary days, they were allowed to spend the evening outside their houses, tasked with buying flowers for the Lebaran decorations, Alwi said.

Young men used the opportunity to quietly observe the girls by gathering near flower shops, which were found on all corners of Jakarta. "Parents of Betawi girls hoped that some young men would court their daughters in the days after Lebaran," said Alwi, who has written about Betawi culture for the newspaper since 1995. This tradition, however, has vanished along with many others, including slaughtering cows or buffaloes, baking traditional Betawi cakes and riding around the city on becak (pedicab).

According to Alwi, who worked as a journalist for state news agency Antara from 1965 to 1993, a traditional Betawi Ramadhan used to begin a day before the fasting started, when people including women, took a bath in the rivers. "Adults and young women took baths with their clothes on, sitting on bamboo rafts in the rivers near their houses, washing their hair with merang (burned rice straw) and kelerak (a fruit producing soapy foam), while boys peeped at them," he said.

Meanwhile, housewives cooked from a special menu that included favorites like semur daging (a meat dish with black sauce) for the first day's saur (pre-dawn meal), which all the members of the family ate. During the fasting month, people intensified religious activities, including tadarus (reading the Koran) and the sholat taraweh and sholat lil (evening and night prayers).

Alwi said Ramadhan was the peak of religious ritual for Muslims including the Betawi people, who up until the 1970s put religion first before holidays and meeting family and friends. "That explains why there were many people who could read the whole contents of the Koran three times during the fasting month," he said, adding that many people in Jakarta's suburbs still practiced the tradition.

A few days into the fasting month, Betawi men began collecting sums of money, locally known as andilan (participation fees), which were used to buy buffaloes and cows. Families banded together into groups of around 30 to buy a cow or buffalo to be butchered the day before Idul Fitri, with the meat distributed to all members of the community. Often, one kampung (village) managed to buy some 50 animals.

Mothers stayed busy in the kitchen, working for up to 15 days before Lebaran day, preparing traditional cakes mostly made from rice, locally known as dodol, kue lapis, kue satu, tape uli, geplak, wajit and rengginang. On Lebaran Eve, most residents gathered in mosques for takbiran (praising God) throughout the night. Meanwhile, young men banging drums rode around the cities on becak.

On Idul Fitri morning, all families were ready with their cakes, including ketupat (rice cakes), which were eaten with semur daging and young papaya after the Idul Fitri prayers.

"Children were very happy during Idul Fitri, not only because various kinds of foods were available, but also because they got a lot of money from their parents, adult relatives and neighbors," Alwi said.


Related blog entries (category 'Ramadan') Related blog entries (category 'Ramadan'):
29 October 2005 · Hospitals prepare for Idul Fitri
23 October 2005 · Huge police deployment for Idul Fitri holiday
28 September 2005 · Hotel discos will stay open during Ramadhan


Posted in Ramadan @ 03 November 2005 07:23 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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