December 8, 2010

Selamat Natal Dan Tahun Baru

And now you know how to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Bahasa Indonesia.

Well, actually you know how to say Congratulations Christmas and New Year.

But the sentiment is the same.

As you may or may not know, Indonesia is a country with a Muslim majority.

That does NOT mean it's a Muslim country- there is a difference.

The people here are not defined by their religion, but by who they are and how they live.  In fact, Indonesians are very proud of the way their country welcomes people of many denominations and faiths.

Among the holidays celebrated here are Idul Fitre (the end of Ramadan), Chinese New Year, Islamic New Year, Hindu New Year, Buddha's birthday, Christmas, and a couple of completely secular celebrations.  These are all "close down the post office, stay home from work" holidays.  And a great chance to find out things you never knew.

But currently, as in America, Jakarta is given over to Christmas.  There is money to be made, so the department stores have Trim a Tree shops and the loudspeakers play holiday tunes (although to be sure, they tend more to Jingle Bells than O Holy Night).

Many of the malls have odd center court decorations - Pacific Place has a really creepy giant plastic ball (I'm talking 30 feet high) with a Santa's Workshop tableau inside.  I have no idea who thought that up or what the reasoning behind it is, but mostly it just makes me think of suffocating elves.

And there are not, understandably, lines of children waiting to speak to Santa and have their picture taken.

In fact, there are no Santas.  At least no place we go.

Until yesterday.

Then we saw this guy at Plaza Senayan.

Let me make sure you know what you are looking at.  This is a manufactured rice paddy in the middle of the first floor of a seven floor mall.  There is a live band singing Christmas carols under the roof of the building. There are giant cloth butterflies, there is a rickshaw with someone in some kind of costume inside, and there is an elf working the sound board for the band.

Santa's job is to wander the board walk, ringing a hand bell (because someone told them that Santa in America rings a hand bell), and be available for anyone brave enough to come up to him to say Hi.  We saw exactly one person with that particular need.

You go Santa!

Poor St. Nick was bored out of his skull, in a country full of spectacularly boring jobs.  He chatted with the rickshaw person, and dinged his bell and very obviously wished he had kept his day job watching paint dry.

But when we went into Sogo's Trim a Tree shop in a fruitless attempt to find a Christmas ornament that didn't come from the United States, we were treated to the best worst Christmas tree ever...

Yes it's red.

Of course it's red!

Red is one of the main Christmas colors!

And it's exactly the red you see.  Not a cherry red, or a fire engine red, but the cheap, faded, pinkish red of a Vegas show girl on the back side of over the hill.

An "in your face, I dare you to buy me" red.

I have seen garish trees in the U.S.- sparkly trees, silver trees, you name it.  But for whatever reason, this red tree is a first for me and it is even worse in person.

So if they have these where you live too, and you think it's swell- I'm sorry.  I would never intentionally hurt your feelings.

But oy!  You might want to re-think your choice, or come here where people would nod and smile and congratulate you on your cutting edge Christmas taste.

And you can make fun of me if you want, because our Christmas tree came in a box from Hobby Lobby and it's six feet tall and two feet wide with pre-strung white lights and no decorations except one Earth ball.

But no matter what your tree looks like, and for many of our friends it would look like a heathen Solstice Bush, or actually be a Menorah, enjoy your holidays and know that we wish you all Selamat Natal!