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Independence Day

16 August 2015

Happy Independence Day!

Known locally as ‘Hari Merdeka’ and  celebrated annually on August 17,  this is the day that marks when Soekarno and Hatta proclaimed the independence of Indonesia in 1945, after being under Dutch colonialism for more than three-and-a-half centuries and Japanese occupation for three-and-a-half years.

Independence Day is observed from Jakarta to the smallest villages across the archipelago. Citizens decorate their houses and streets with the red and white Indonesian flag, which is of great importance to the country with the red signifying courage and the white representing purity. Vibrant parades, formal military processions, and lots of patriotic flag ceremonies take place in schools, offices and government buildings.

After the flag ceremonies, the informal celebrations begin with games such as ‘kerupuk’ (cracker) eating competitions, and an old tradition known as ‘panjat pinang’ in which a heavily-greased pole is erected in the main square with contestants pushing, slipping, and sliding up the pole in an effort to grab a prize. Each of these games has symbolic value and serves as reminder of the time before Indonesia had its independence. For example, eating kerupuk is a reminder of how people lived in poverty during the colonisation, while climbing the greased pole symbolises the effort it took to gain independence.

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