Wednesday this week (November 1st, 2017) is the Balinese holiday of Galungan.
It’s not a red day (as national holidays are marked red in the Indonesian calendar system) but we will be closed along with most every other company in Bali as this is one of the more important Balinese holidays of the year. Our office will be closed from Tuesday, October 31st and we’ll reopen on Friday, November 3rd…
Background Information on the Galungan Holiday
The Balinese calendar (or Pakuwon) is a cycle of 210 days and has absolutely nothing in common with the international or Gregorian calendar.
The day celebrates the victory of “Dharma” (virtue) upon “Adharma” (evil) — the word Galungan means, “when the Dharma is winning”.
Galungan marks the beginning of the most important recurring religious ceremony that is celebrated by all Balinese.
During the Galungan period the deified ancestors of the family descend to their former homes. They must be suitably entertained and welcomed, and prayers and offerings must be made for them.
Those families who have ancestors that have not yet been cremated, but are still buried in the village cemetery, must make offerings at the graves.
Although Galungan falls on a Wednesday, most Balinese will begin their Galungan ‘holiday’ on Tuesday — this is when the family begins to prepare offerings and food for the next day.
Leading up to Galungan, everyone has a job to do.
One of the odd — you could say, ‘funny’ — things about Bali is that there are many, many holidays & ceremonies but in our experience, everyone works much harder for a ceremony than they would in an office or on a construction site for that matter.
And, of all the Balinese holidays, Galungan is probably the busiest and the most expensive in terms of offerings, feast & decorations.
There is the purchase of fruit for offerings; a pig for slaughter; pastries, snacks and so on and many flowers and coconut fiber for making ‘banten’ — a standard woven offering. I’ll often walk out of the office to find a small woven basket of flowers and perfume ‘banten’ on my car or under my foot (they’re easy to miss and tread on). The banten for Galungan are bigger, more complicated. The making of banten, by the way, does require skill — Arie’s mum has been practicing for years and only recently felt accomplished enough to make them properly.
Traditionally, the men of the family get together to buy a pig and then kill it.
Around this time, you often see small flatbed trucks wizzing around with rattan baskets in the back — a pig in each basket.
With the pig sorted, the men will get up around 4 or 5 in the morning to slaughter the pig — the meat is diced, ground and made into sate (kebabs) and the guys also make lawar — that’s a dish I’ve always found kind of gross — it’s basically mixed vegetables sometimes with raw pig’s blood and pork. I’ve also heard of white lawar which has no blood. The only time I got close to trying it, it was a crazy hot concoction by one of our friends (Arie was crying).
Once that’s done, the guys usually move on to making the penjor — curvy, bamboo poles heavily decorated and placed outside the homes, temples and the sides of the streets.
On Wednesday, the day of Galungan, one will find that most Balinese will try to return to their own ancestral home at some stage during the day, even if they work in another part of the island. This is a very special day for families, where offerings are made to God and to the family ancestors who have come back to rest at this time in their family temple. As well as the family temple, visits are made to the village temple with offerings as well, and to the homes of other families who may have helped the family in some way over the past six months.
The day after Galungan is a time for a holiday, visiting friends, maybe taking the opportunity to head for the mountains for a picnic. Everyone is still seen to be in their ‘Sunday best’ as they take to the streets to enjoy the festive spirit that Galungan brings to Bali.
So, there you have it: a kind of Christmas, Halloween & Thanksgiving all rolled into one day.
See you on Friday.