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What Does Independence Day in Indonesia look like?

Independence Day in Indonesia

Independence Day in Indonesia looks a little different than 4th of July in America. On August 17, Indonesians celebrate their independence as a country from the Dutch with a variety of activities.

The Dutch occupied Indonesia for 347 years. They heavily influenced Indonesian culture, language and economy during that time. The Japanese then occupied Indonesia in 1942 for three and a half years during World War II. The Dutch had little ability to defend its colony against the Japanese army. Their rule over Indonesia during that time was a crucial factor for Indonesia gaining independence.

When Japan was on the brink of losing the war, the Dutch sought to regain control over Indonesia. They requested that the Japanese army preserve law and order in Indonesia. However, the Japanese were more in favor of helping Indonesians prepare for self-government.

Two days after the Japanese Emperor’s surrender in the Pacific, Indonesia declared its independence on August 17, 1945. The next day Sukarno became the first president of Indonesia.

There would be years of war following that day with the Dutch and British. Finally in 1949 the Dutch accepted Indonesia’s independence. Their independence was secured by diplomacy and force of the Indonesian Republic. The young people (pemuda) played a crucial part in their courage and willingness to die to gain independence.

flag raising ceremony in Indonesia

Preparing for Independence Day

Weeks before Independence day, Indonesians will start to put up their red and white flags in front of houses, offices, and schools. If you live in a neighborhood it is highly encouraged to put up a flag in front of your house.

The neighborhoods also hold a clean up day (kerja bakti) where every one helps sweep, cut weeds and organize the neighborhood. Some streets are decorated with colorful paint.

On the 17th the President and Vice President will lead a ceremony to hoist to Indonesian flag at the National Palace. Most schools will also have a flag raising ceremony for all the children to attend.

Indonesian Independence Day


The best part of Independence Day is all the fun games and activities (lomba-lomba) one can participate in. Krupuk (shrimp chimps) eating contests are a favorite game where you have to eat krupuk tied on a string without using your hands. Sack races, bike decorating, and bottle games are other popular activities for kids (and adults!)

One interesting game is Panjat Pinang.  Indonesians will grease an Areca palm tree with clay and oil and see who can make it to the top of the tree without slipping! There are different prizes like bikes and TVs hung at the top. Whoever reaches a prize first gets to take it home! This activity symbolizes the effort it took for Indonesians to gain their independence.

Indonesians Celebrate Independence Day

Jalan Sehat

Another activity that neighborhoods put on is the Jalan Sehat (Healthy Walk). Everyone will meet at a central location then all walk around the neighborhood together. This activity unites a community together and promotes a healthy lifestyle! Then afterwards they share a meal of Nasi Tumpeng (Indonesian yellow rice shaped like a cone).

Indonesians take pride in their country and will celebrate their 77th year as an independent nation this year! The Dutch had a long rule in Indonesia (longer than America has been a country) and Indonesia fought hard for their independence. August 17th is a wonderful day of remembering and celebrating across the country!