From Sungkeman to Halal Bihalal, Here’s How Eid Tradition Began

Indonesians have traditions that are unwittingly carried out during Eid every year, such as the culture of sungkeman, halal bihalal, and sending Eid cards. Many may not know the origin of these traditions. The beginning of the Eid tradition in Indonesia was told by cultural scientist Dr. Umar Khayam as stated in a book written by Arif Yosodipuro entitled Buku Pintar Khatib dan Khotbah. 

According to him, the Eid tradition is a combination of Javanese culture and Islam. At that time, scholars in Java combined the two cultures to maintain harmony and community welfare. Eventually, the tradition spread throughout Indonesia, even involving people of different religions. Here is the philosophy of the Eid tradition.  

  1. Sungkem

The purpose of sungkem is divided into two:  a symbol of respect and as an apology or “nyuwun ngapura”. According to Umar, the word “ngapura” comes from the Arabic word “ghafura”. From there, the Javanese priests wanted to realize one of the goals of Ramadan fasting, which is to erase past sins. They believe that Eid is the perfect time to apologize for their mistakes. 

For your information, Eid al-Fitr is also often called Lebaran. The word Lebaran has two meanings, namely, the fast has been wide (completed) and the sins have been melted (erased).

  1. Halal Bihalal

The tradition of Halal Bihalal allegedly originated from Kanjeng Gusti Pangeran Adipati Arya (KGPAA) Mangkunegara I or known as Pangeran Sambernyawa which is written in a source around the Surakarta palace. After the Eid prayer, a meeting was held between the king and his courtier simultaneously in the palace. They all do sungkem with the king and empress.

Previously, this practice was copied by Islamic organizations and called halal bihalal. The purpose of this Halal-Bihalal activity is as a way for friendship and meeting with many people. 

Read also: 5 Facts About the Night of Lailatul Qadar’s Privileges

  1. Sending Eid Cards

In addition to Halal Bihalal, some people send Eid cards to stay in touch. This culture is a solution for relatives or families who cannot visit or stay in touch due to distance and time. Today’s technological advances can make Eid cards into e-cards. It makes it easy to exchange Eid greetings en masse and in a short time. 

We can trace evidence of the fusion of the two cultures of Java and Islam in the world’s Islamic culture. For example, after the Eid prayer, in Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia (outside Indonesia), there is no tradition of shaking hands to forgive each other. Shaking hands spontaneously is just a symbol of familiarity. In Islam, forgiveness can be done at any time and does not have to be done after the fasting month. Instead, someone who has done something wrong should apologize immediately.

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