Indonesia’s Unique Tradition of Lebaran

June 18, 2018 | Ahmad Gabriel


Hundreds of Muslims rushed out of Masjid Jami’ (Mosque) Jenggawah after the early morning Eid prayer in Jember, East Java. On Lebaran or Eid al-Fitr, jamaah (congregation) is much larger than usual. Lebaran is celebrated nationally every year on 1 Shawwal, marking the successful conclusion to the compulsory fasting for Muslims in the month of Ramadan. This is the time when everybody dressed in their finest, greets their neighbors, family and friends “Selamat Idul Fitri” follows by “Mohon Maaf Lahir dan Batin,” wishing that past sins are washed away after mutual forgiveness in a solemn bid to make amends.



Historically, Lebaran tradition began in the fifteenth century when Sunan Bonang, one of the Wali Songo (the nine sainted teachers) of Tuban, Central Java, call upon Muslims to complete their Ramadan fast by asking each other for forgiveness. This occasion of mutual forgiveness during Eid al-Fitr is a unique tradition in Indonesian Muslim society that is not found in Muslim societies in the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East, the African continent or elsewhere. Most Muslims only express Eid Mubarak or Blessed Eid. Lebaran derives from a Betawi word lebar which means “wide and broad”, so the celebration means sincerely open one’s heart after fasting ritual of Ramadan.

Indonesian Muslims wear traditional Islamic clothes on Eid. Men wear baju koko or koko’s shirt, which is a long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirt with a traditional embroidered design, paired with a matching songket, ikat or woven sarong. Batik shirts with the typical motifs of the region also a popular choice for family uniforms, with a matching peci, kopiah or songkok (a cap widely worn as part of the national attire). The women usually wear loose kebaya blouses (which can be adorned with brocade and embroidery), long skirts or sarong skirts made of batik, ikat or woven songket and hijab or veil covering the hair and neck. In addition, kaftan, abaya, gamis and batik are also popular choice of Islamic dresses on Eid.

After the Eid prayer, people head home for sungkem among family members. Sungkem is a tradition to ask for blessings and forgiveness from parents, grandparents and older relatives. Parents sit in chairs place their hands on their laps while children and youths bow deep, with their noses touch their hands that are holding the parents’ hands. When kissing their parents’ hands, the child will utter an apology for all the mistakes and gratitude for raising them. This is a sign of humility, highest appreciation and deep respect for parents and our elders.



After sungkem and mutual forgiveness, it is time to eat breakfast together as a family with ketupat, the iconic element of typical Lebaran dishes. Ketupat is compressed rice cooked to a solid in a diamond-shaped container of plaited coconut or young palm leaves. This iconic element is accompanied by typical Lebaran dishes, such as opor ayam (chicken cooked in coconut milk), rendang (spicy meat dish), sambal goreng ati (friend beef liver in chili paste) and chicken satay as a complement. The tradition of preparing and consuming ketupat during Lebaran is believed to be introduced by Sunan Kalijaga, one of the Wali Songo that spread Islam in Java, and contains some meanings. It is believed that ketupat means ngaku lepat or “admit one’s mistake” in Javanese.

After breakfast, parents will take their children for Silaturahim and Halal bi Halal, visiting neighbors and relatives. Silaturahim itself means to renew or to connect relationship or brotherhood. This is a form of respect to neighbors and the time for sincere apology for any mistake made this year whether it is intentional or not, to make peace and live in harmony with neighbors. When visiting the neighbors, guests will be served typical Lebaran cookies and snacks, such as kue nastar, kastangel, putri salju, sumprit, kue kacang, rangginang, dodol and so forth. Children have waited for this moment when neighbors and relatives pass out Eid money envelope.

After the Silaturahim on Eid, Indonesian Muslims also visit the graves of families and loved ones. This tradition is called ziarah kubur (visit a grave). During this visit, one’s clean the grave, read the Surat Yasin from the Qur’an and also recite prayers and tahlil. All is done to ask God to forgive the sins of the deceased, and as a reminder that the end of the journey of life is death. Therefore, we must rid ourselves of sins, multiply good deeds and worship and be kind and compassionate to one another in life.

Ahmad Gabriel
Ahmad Gabriel dilahirkan di Jakarta, 13 April 1987. Menyukai dunia menulis, sastra dan desain saat nyantri di PP. Al-Amien Prenduan dan pernah menjabat sebagai Ketua Sanggar Sastra Al-Amien. Saat ini diamanahi sebagai Ketua Departemen Pengembangan Wilayah DPP Pemuda PUI.
Tags : Eid al-Fitr, Islamic dresses, Sungkem

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Dayang Rindu: A Forgotten Folklore of Southern Sumatra

Language Diversity in the Land of Papua

Most Popular

West Sumatra Grand Mosque