Mudik Lebaran Tradition

June 4, 2018 | Ade Tanesia


Mudik or pulang kampung is a unique Indonesian tradition of mass homebound migration in the lead up to Ied al-Fitr, locally known as Lebaran or Idul Fitri. Loyalty to hometown and to family is a cultural hallmark of the Indonesian society. The term “mudik” is a simplification of or Jawa Ngoko (the lower Javanese language) phrase “mulih dilik” meaning to go home for a while after migrating somewhere. Thus, mudik is not always related to, but has nevertheless been linked to Lebaran celebrations.

Mudik has existed since the ancient Majapahit Kingdom when perantau (migrants) return to their hometowns to visit and clean the graves of their ancestors to ask for blessings in search of sustenance. In some regions, such as Yogyakarta and Central Java, mudik tradition also takes place at harvest festivals of “bersih desa” literally means village cleaning. Communities come together in gratitude and perform traditional arts and rituals at the festivals and perantau return to their home villages. The tradition is known as Gawai to the Dayak tribe in Kalimantan and as Padungku in Poso, Central Sulawesi. Those who are seeking education outside of their villages return home on this occasion to be together with families and neighbors.

Mudik Lebaran tradition has been gaining momentum since the 1970s in line with the significant increase in rural-urban migration in Indonesia that causes people longing for hometown or home village to see family member. People who live in small towns and rural areas come to big cities to work, change their fate and be successful. They look forward to return home for the occasion to show-off results of their hard work and to socially reconnect with family member, friends and neighbors. The hustle and bustle of cities like Jakarta can be alienating, causing social connection crises. Empathy can often be weaker in individualist societies where people are only supposed to look after themselves. Mudik is the perfect medicine to revive mutual empathy, mutual aid and caring for others and be a part of social activities. Cultural values that are unconsciously absorbed since childhood in hometown planted in them a seed of yearning for a sense of togetherness in the village. Feeling nostalgic of the village atmosphere is worth passing on to our children, though village might transform. This is a way of maintaining balance as social and cultural beings for Indonesians.

To maintain the balance, people are willing to put up with traffic, suffocating public transports, or even more betting their lives riding a motorcycle to be more efficient. Preparation in all lines was done to welcome the flow of mudik. In some of the most densely populated areas, the flow of mudik has been anticipated by adding police officers on-duty. For those who use ships, trains, or planes, they have purchased tickets long before the D-day. A taxi driver I met told me that he will go back to Cilacap “First, I pay visit to my wife’s family in Tasik Malaya then to Cilacap. Once a year, to return home and meet the whole family is a big thing miss, a reason to work a little harder, “he said laughing.

Idul Fitri family gathering is so cherished, especially when the family goes for the Eid prayer together, followed by a tradition of mutual forgiveness. In this context, social relations are strengthened in one unified whole of family and society. Lebaran is also a moment to meet relatives that live far and to witness family growth. The cliché question for those who have completed school and work is “when are you getting married?” For those who are married and have no children is “When are you planning on having a baby?” These questions mirror the culture that values the human life cycle: being born, getting married, have children, to death. It is in this cycle that cultural values are planted in every generation, which strengthens the bonds of core family and of the entire community as a whole.

Mudik for Indonesians is not simply to return home, but self-revitalization process as a social and cultural being. In the midst of rapid development which present new cultural values, the mudik tradition allows a person to discover the oasis of origin and the cultural value inherited for generations.

Tags : Ied al-Fitr, Mudik

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