Bali tradition ceremony street during calungan and kuningan, penjor bamboo

What are the Galungan and Kuningan Balinese Celebrations?

bali ceremony street penjor bamboo poles

In 2018, I was in Bali for the Christmas season. And it was some surprising celebrations going all around Bali, for the 26th December. But I quickly discovered they were NOT for Xmas at all, as they don’t celebrate. It was only a coincidence, if this year, our Xmas celebration was very close to one of their celebration, who happen roughly every 6 months. The date is calculated according to the 210-day Balinese calendar. But what is exactly this Bali tradition?

It will soon be the one of this summer. And if you are in Bali, you will be lucky to discover one of their most important tradition. From July 24 to August 3 for the kuningan. But what is it exactly?

1. So what is it?

Galungan is a Balinese holiday which celebrates the victory of dharma (good) over adharma ( evil). It marks the time when ancestral spirits of dead relatives visit the Earth. The last day of the celebration is Kuningan, 10 days later, when they leave earth. The spirits of deceased relatives return to visit their former homes and the Balinese have a responsibility of welcoming their past ancestors, through prayers and offerings. And a most obvious sign of the celebrations is the penjor – bamboo poles with offerings suspended at the end which line the roads, symbol of prosperity. Are you lucky to be in Bali at this time? So you will enjoy all those decorations around the streets, and see families gathering to the temple.
BEWARE! It is a Family event. So do not enter the temple without one of your Balinese friend inviting you, and appropriate clothes (your sarron and shoulders covered.).

2. What do they do?

This Bali Tradition always start at praying at the temple. The Balinese put on their finest traditional clothes to attend temple prayers with their families. So they bring offerings to share and enjoy after praying. It is a day to remind themselves of the long lineage of their ancestors and beautiful story they are a part of. The Balinese reconnect and renew their commitment to trying to make tomorrow a better day, trying to make themselves better each day. All the local temples are very crowded and colourful on Galungan, a beautiful time to observe the most fascinating part of Bali’s spiritual culture. It is as important for them as Xmas is for Europeans and Americans.

bali offering fruits temple ceremony
Offerings in a Temple

3. Before the big days!

3 days before – Penyekeban – Cooking of bananas for offerings
Families begin their preparations for Galungan. “Penyekeban” means “the day to cover up” . This is the day when green bananas are covered up in huge clay pots to speed their ripening.

2 days before – Penyajaan – Making of jaja (fried rice cakes) for offerings
Marks a time of introspection for Balinese and a time to make the Balinese rice cakes known as jaja. These coloured cakes, made of fried rice, are used in offerings and eaten on Galungan.

1 day before – Penampahan – Sacrificing of pigs or chicken for feasts
The day before Galungan, pigs and chickens are blessed and ceremonially slaughtered to make food for Galungan. Including lawar, a kind of spicy salad and sate.

4. During the big day!

Galungan day – Praying at the temple
Balinese will wear their finest clothes, and go to pray with their families. You will see them bringing as much offering as they can, to enjoy and share them after praying. On this day, they remember their ancestor and the stories behind them. Tales for the young, and memories for the elders. Also, the day Balinese meditate to reconnect, looking on making tomorrow a better day. The Balinese reconnect and renew their commitment to trying to make tomorrow a better day. You will see all the local temples very crowded and colorful on this Galungan day. By consequent, the perfect day for you to observe the most fascinating part of Bali’s spiritual culture.

5. And after the big day..!

1 day after – Manis Galungan – Visiting family
Finally, a time dedicated to spending time with the family. Visiting the extended family around Bali, and trips around and about to visit sites together. By consequents the roads are very busy, beware if you go to the airport!
Then, after the Galungan period, the deceased spirits and ancestors leave their home and return. So hindu deities including Sang Hyang Widi, the Supreme God also visits to give blessings to all the people on earth.

11 days after – Manis Kuningan – Fun
To finish, this is the day after Kuningan where people spend their time with family and loved ones, friends, mostly in their hometown. So there are no religious ceremonies during this day. 

6. Upcoming Galungan and Kuningan dates:

 2018 – December 26th, Kuningan 2019 – January 5th
 2019 – July 24th, Kuningan 2019 – August 3rd
 2020 – February 19th, Kuningan 2020 – February 29th
 2020 – September 16th, Kuningan 2020 – September 26

7. Thank you!

I hope you have an idea more clear into one of the Bali tradition you may will assist. So like and write a comment below to give your feedback. And don’t forget to share your e-mails for our monthly blog newsletter!
Finally, you can find more tips around and about Bali HERE! where you will discover if it worth seeing the dolphins in Lovina Beach, Or our 12 things to do in Amed Bali. (Our favorite location after 2 months exploring Bali.)

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Pieces of information have been gathered from Balinese friends, Wikipedia, and also some very good Indonesians newsletters you can find here and there, in the vast web of the net! (But still thanks very much!)

The Read Think Travel Team.

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