Indonesia’s 67th Independence Day Celebrations

August 17th is a sacred date for the entire Indonesian nation. For 17 August 1945 was the long awaited moment when the Indonesian people proclaimed their Independence from 300 years of Dutch colonial rule, and the Republic of Indonesia was born after a long relentless struggle.

The Proclamation of Independence was read by Indonesia’s leaders Soekarno-Hatta at Gedung Proklamasi in Jalan Pegangsaan Timur (now Jalan Proklamasi) in Central Jakarta,  after which the rallying shout of “Merdeka” (Freedom) was heard all over the country.

Every year, Independence Day – or Hari Proklamasi – is commemorated in formal ceremonies and vibrant festivities all across the archipelago. Entering the 67th anniversary this 17 August 2012, villages, towns, and cities across the country are gearing up to commemorate the Independence Day with colorful celebrations and various festive events.

This year, independence Day commemorations, however, coincides with the holy fasting month of Ramadhan, thus celebrations will be rather toned down. However, visitors can still expect to observe lots of interesting activities days around the event. In almost every village, town and city, you can watch sports competitions and free concerts. On the day itself, the main attractions beside the official ceremonies are the town parades, with marching bands, decorated cars and bikes, and several art performances.

Preparations for the patriotic celebrations begin weeks before the 17th of August. High-rise office buildings around major cities sprout large banners or lighted designs, fences around the presidential palace and many government offices are draped in red and white bunting, malls decorate in red and white and hold Independence Day sales, the city administrations create a unique series of red and white lighted decorations down the length of some major streets, and housing complexes repaint their main gates decorated with independence themes. The whole country takes on a red and white hue and the words Dirgahayu Republik Indonesia (Long live the Republic of Indonesia!) can be seen everywhere.

The pinnacle and most solemn ceremony of the entire series of Independence Day Commemorations is the flag hoisting at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta at 10.0 am on 17 August, when the text of the Proclamation of Independence is also read out.

Full of patriotic spirit and nationalism, it is a spectacle of the greatest respect and honor for the flag and the Republic. The ceremonies are led by the President and Vice President, and attended by the cabinet, military brass, family members of the current and preceding presidents, diplomatic corps and honored guests. High School students from throughout the archipelago are chosen for their marching skills and put on a show of intricate steps and turns to hoist the flag. The military is out with all its brass in high shine, standing smartly at attention in their dress uniforms.

While solemn ceremonies are taking place, neighborhoods gear up for fun and games for the kids. Krupuk (crackers/chips) eating contests, bike decorating, games, races and lots of fun fill the day. The women are busy in cooking contests to see who can make the most delicious nasi tumpeng (ceremonial rice) and other various dishes. One of the most popular games is the Panjat Pinang or Palm tree Climbing Competition. An Areca palm trunk is erected in a public area and well greased with a mixture of clay and oil. At the top are hung prizes like bikes and TVs. Whoever makes it to the top wins the prize. Needless to say there are a lot of slippery, muddy kids and grownups alike climbing on top of each other and struggling to reach the goal. A good time is had by all, especially the crowd watching the gaiety.

The Proclamation of Indonesian Independence was read at 10.00 a.m. on Friday, 17 August 1945. The Declaration was the pinnacle of centuries of struggle in all different parts of the Indonesian archipelago and marked the start of the diplomatic and armed-resistance of the unified Indonesian National Revolution, fighting against the forces of the Netherlands until the latter officially acknowledged Indonesia’s independence in 1949.

It was, however, only in 2005, that the Netherlands declared that they had decided to accept the date of 17 August 1945 as the date of Indonesia’s independence.

Source : Indonesia Travel (07.08.12)