One of the great things about living in Indonesia is that many different religions are recognized. This means that people get Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Catholic/Christian holidays off. The best of these are the non-Muslim holidays. Since close to 90% of the country is Muslim, these days are merely a day off work. Despite this, I find it almost impossible to get into the Christmas spirit. For most, Christmas is just another day off or as is the case this year: a long weekend.
Unless you are Australian, I think it is pretty much impossible to equate tropical hot weather with Christmas. For a hoser like me, it's not REALLY Christmas unless there is snow on the ground. I've given up hope that it will ever snow in Jakarta (one drunken night, I convinced myself that a volcanic eruption somewhere in Java could trigger a freak weather event causing it to snow) but every year I hold out the slim hope that this December will be more Christmas like. It never happens. With the exception of a few tacky mall displays, you'd never know that Santa Claus is coming to town.
The first year I was here, I stepped into the Kelapa Gading mall and asked a friend why they had Christmas displays up so early in the year. My friend gave me a strange look and informed me that it was December 15th. Aside from that, I didn't see a single festive Christmas decoration or festivity that year. I started asking around and realized that even the Christian/Catholic (there seems to be some kind of huge divide among them as if they are Muslims and Jews in the West Bank) people who do live in Jakarta had a Christmas dinner and went to church. There was no gift exchange, no decking the halls and worst of all.....no Santa! Sure, the kids and adults know who Santa is but he doesn't make it to Jakarta most years.
As of today, it is 2 weeks until Christmas. The calendar and my upcoming time off are the only indicator that the 'holiday season' is upon us. Somebody asked me if I would put up a tree. I thought about it and it just seemed depressing in the sense that it would remind me of what I was missing. One of my friends put up a small plastic tree and lights on the wall last year (he paid a lot of money for the tree). The lights ended up being a permanent fixture in his living room because they 'really tied the room together'. The plan for this year is to do the Christmas Eve dinner buffet with friends at a fancy hotel and then go home. Christmas day will probably resemble a Sunday more than anything as far as atmosphere and motivation. I'll go to sleep early and put out milk & martabak, but hope is fading that there will be any presents under the palm tree when I awake on Christmas morning.
Selemat Hari Natal