Family and Social life

The Role of father and Mother

The family and social life play an important place for the Javanese. For a traditional Javanese, it is beyond imagination to be separated from the life of his or her families. A good family always respects their parents, father as the head of family and mother as the backbone. To respect the parents and ancestors, there is a proverb saying 'mikul duwur, mendem jero' (carry on shoulders highly, bury deeply), which means always honor them, remember the good things they have done, forget the bad ones.

Lebaran or Idul Fitri

The most important family reunion is the day of Lebaran or Idul Fitri, after one month of fasting period. It is celebrated everywhere, within the families, between friends, in the offices, etc.

Special Lebaran 'ketupat' dishes are served (rice cake boiled in rhombus, shaped packet of plaited coconut leaves), chickens, boiled eggs, sambal goreng, etc. People from the lowest strata to the president of the country are joyful celebrating the Lebaran.

Between family, there is a 'Sungkeman' or 'ngabekten' ceremony, asking sincere forgiveness and blessing. For detail ngabekten ceremony in royal families, please see article 'Garebeg', sub-title of "The Garebeg Procession in Karatons".

In fact, Lebaran has become the biggest social and national holidays. In this days and during the month, the people are using this occasion to ask forgiveness from one to the others. The younger will visit the elder, shaking with both hands or the younger should kiss the right hand of the elder.

A lot of visits to families, friends should be made. All the traffic in Java is densely crowded. Cars are moving bumpers to bumpers. The trains, buses, airplanes are fully books. Approximately 30 (thirty) millions people are travelling in the island of Java, wishing to celebrate Lebaran with their families !

Be well prepared if a foreign traveler would like to visit Central Java at this time, make all the necessary booking at the latest one month in advance, for the flights and also the hotels.

Visiting Each Other

The Javanese value highly social life. Although, they are busy, but they will find time and opportunities to visit families and friends. Individualism is not popular here. Many gathering or parties are organized to celebrate some events, such as birthday, wedding, a boy circumcision, X-mas (for Christians, but now non Christians could be also invited) and many kinds of 'Slametan' (praying by several people, with foodstuff offering in the form of rice cone with side dishes).

Sport Activities

Sports are also popular in this country, modern and traditional sports. There is a ministry of youth and sports the Indonesian acronym is DEPORA, guiding these activities and also Committee for National sports Organization (the Indonesia acronym is KONI).

The modern sports consisting among other badminton (Indonesia is one of the world power), tennis, football soccer, basketball, volley ball, athletics, boxing, etc. The traditional sport, which is very popular, is art of self-defense. The art of self-defense is divided by two big groups :

  1. The first is using physical liveliness, skill and ability.
  2. The second group is using inner power. When inner power is well developed, the person could resist, for instance the heat of fire, snake bites, a stab of sharp knife., blow of a big stone or iron.
There are many different clubs of these self defense activities, from the first as well as from the second group. A separate article of art of self-defense should be gradually composed.


Arts in this country have been known since the ancient time, that is the traditional arts. But nowadays, modern arts do exist too.
Modern music, playing and singing local and foreign songs could be heard and seen almost everywhere.
Paintings and arts galleries, exhibiting or selling ordinary products or some masterpiece can be found in Yogya, Solo and Semarang.
Modern theaters are only performed from time to time.

Traditional dance performances are routine events in Yogya and Solo. The performance of leather puppet (wayang kulit) and wayang orang (played by human) can be seen in Yogya and Solo.


Living in harmony is very important for Javanese, harmonious life in the family with neighbors, friends, colleagues at place of work, etc. Harmony gives a balance in life, which in turn should give a happy and safe motivation of life.

With this point of view, no wonder Javanese are easy to find something pleasure in simple things, even for becak drivers, who have to use a lot of physical energy to gain some rupiahs, they can enjoy themselves easily waiting for the next passengers. They sing a simple song, Uro-uro (Javanese old song) while smoking their kretek. Sometimes they play cards (domino), jokingly, ridiculing each other and everyone is amused.

Neighborhood Gathering

In 1960's to 1980's, in the evening some neighbors shall chat together in some one's house, talking for the experience of the day or just over something, from time to time laughter are heard, while drinking their sweet and warm tea and smoking kretek.

This is one of cheap ways they make relaxation of mind, as tomorrow they have to work again. In working as well as in life, they stick to Principle of "Ojo ngoyo" or "Don't be too pushy", it will keep you young for a longer period.

Family Gathering

Nowadays, when all cities in this country have electricity and many parts of country site as well, it seems that people in the evening gather with their own family watching TV programs.

A present, there are several TV channels upon audience choice. TV has become the cheapest entertainment means beside radio, and many families own CD and videocassettes.

Some people prefer outside amusements such as cinema, karaoke, pub and discotheque. Sometime, in weekend, they go picnicking to some places of interest, to the mountain, to the beach or some good holiday resorts. Fishing is also a popular entertainment.

Hobby of Domestic Pets

The favorite domestic pets among other are dogs, cats and birds. There are several colorful cute birds which sing beautifully, such as canaries, parakeets, doves, pigeons, cockatoos, starlings, mynas, parrots, perkutut (turtle doves), poksay, cucakrawa, etc. Some richer people have peacocks - the elegant birds.

From the chicken family, the more common are turkey, guinea fowl, jungle fowl, but most popular is bekisar (cross between female domestic chicken and male jungle fowl). The birds of poksay, cucakrawa and perkutut are very popular, especially perkutut is a bird of pride according to local tradition.

A Javanese gentleman can sit hours, while sipping his sweet tea and smoking his kretek cigarettes, listening to his perkutut gentle songs.

Perkutut is treated with special care, placed in a special cage designed only for this bird. From time to time, this bird is given jamu (herbal medicine) to beautify his voice and also bathed. The local fascination towards perkutut dates back centuries. It could be valued from its physical characteristics, which could bring safety and fortune to the owner and from its magical voice. These species could live as long as 100 years. The price of perkutut varies from US$ 1.00 (for the young and untrained) up to the same price of the latest model of a BMW car!!! The perkutut song competition is very interesting to be attended.

The fascination of perkutut is probably linked with Javanese traditional behavior, saying : That a man is considered to be a real man if he already has a house, a wife, a horse, a keris and a bird. It has, of course, symbolic meaning.

The Famous Mo - Limo

A person must avoid Mo Limo, the five words begin with letter M, which are:

  1. Maling : to steal
  2. Madon : to commit adultery
  3. Minum : to get drunk due to excessive use of alcoholic drinking
  4. Madat : to lose one's mind due to opium, morphine, drugs, etc.
  5. Main : to gamble with money
in order to get a good conduct and respected by others.


Crime is a foe of every normal society in the world. Due to mostly economic reasons, crime does exist in this country, although as not as cruel like in the movies.

Visitors should be careful with their belongings. Keep it in a safe place, in hotel for instance, keep in the safety box. The police have set up a special unit of Polisi Pariwisata (Tourist Police Unit) to protect the tourists visiting the country.

(Suryo S. Negoro)

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