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A Traditional Balinese Christmas

A Catholic Enclave in West Bali Blends Hindu and Christian Traditions to Celebrate Christmas

(12/27/2013) The Christian holiday of Christmas was celebrated in the village of Ekasari, Jembrana, Bali with traditional dances based on long-standing Bali-Hindu themes.

What appears at first as a cultural anomaly is, in fact, a long-standing tradition in the Christian enclave of Ekasari in West Bali.

Wayan Suryatna, a resident of Ekasari, told the State News Agency Antara, “The celebration of Christmas is marked by dance creations such as the ‘Merak Angel’ and ‘Kembang Girang’ – all adapted from Balinese dance forms.”

These two dances largely resemble traditional Balinese dances with specific movements incorporated into the final presentation to accommodate Christmas themes.

An estimated 700 families followed Christmas celebrations in Ekasari from three neighborhoods (banjars) where the majority of residents are Roman Catholics.

Because the Catholics of Ekasari trace their ancestral roots to Bali, religious ceremonies are held in a large and magnificent Catholic Church that includes Balinese architectural finishes. Worshippers dress in traditional Balinese garb.

In the period leading up to Christmas, the Catholics of Ekasari also visi the graves of their ancestors located in a picturesque graveyard standing near their church. Bearing offerings, flowers and burning incense reminiscent of Bali-Hindu ceremonies, the people of Ekasari pause at family graves to offer Christian prayers of remembrance.