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You Can Kiss Me on a Monday

Denpasar Suburb Celebrates its Annual Kissing Festival.

(3/22/2004) A Jakarta legislator who recently suggested that the act of public kissing be made a felony would certainly be outraged by the traditional med medan observances taking place on Monday, March 22, 2004, in the urban village of Banjar Kaja in South Denpasar.

On that day and in deference to an age-old tradition of that community, the young boys and girls of that community gather in the local square; boys to the left, girls to the right, to gradually make there way towards each other to abandon all their adolescent reticence and exchange kisses, often and fervently, with the opposing team.

No one's quite sure where all this kissing business got its start. Locals will cite calamities that have always befallen the local community whenever the med-medan observance lapsed, even for a single year. To be sure to err on the side of caution, this both sacred and profane ritual is now always celebrated on the day immediately after the Nyepi Holiday. Observances begin with a solemn procession to the community temple to seek God's blessing before undertaking the important task ahead. Prayers completed, the boys and girls then separate into two groups; there to pluck up their courage and their lips for what follows.

Concerned parents will bring buckets of holy water to "cool off" their children accidentally overcome by the moment. Similarly, conservative elders in the community urge moderation, ready to quickly point out the difference between a brother-sister-like peck on the cheek and the more passionate meeting of lips - ala Francaise. Inspired by modern film and literature or, more likely, the opportunity presented by such legitimized close proximity to members of the opposite sex, participants in the "med-medan" are often seen to exchange hugs and kisses that would make even Madonna or Britney Spears blush.

While spectators are generally welcome at all local cultural events, participation is strictly limited to local lads and lasses in traditional dress.

This year's "med-medan" will get underway at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, March 22, 2004, on Jalan Raya Sesetan in Banjar Kaja in South Denpasar.