Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas "Wonder" Land

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, so you would not expect a Christian holiday to garner much interest. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Christmas is a VERY BIG DEAL in Indonesia, in the cities at least. It is enthusiastically celebrated with an extraordinary mix of Western tradition and Eastern interpretation. The surprising results make my inner being smile repeatedly. Yes, that is a person in a Santa suit riding a bicycle in a tank of water alongside a shark. Go figure.

Christmas is a national holiday here, as are significant events from five religions - Islam, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity - all of which are represented in Indonesia. Integration is part of the culture here, I have come to learn. Rather than arguments, Indonesians prefer harmony. When presented with new ideas, they will blend those concepts into their existing world view creating a richer, more nuanced result. Thus the culture can support women in hajib, ballets depicting the Ramayana (Hinduism's great epic), and Christmas - all with equal flair and exuberance.

George Lakoff, a language professor, wrote that when most people are faced with facts that do not fit their world view, they prefer to toss out the facts rather than reconsider their beliefs. Perhaps we could all learn a lesson or two from the Indonesian approach, because, after all, isn't acceptance - as well as the depth of love that it is requires - part of what Christmas is all about?

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