Bali’s biggest festival is just around the corner and unlike other New Year’s celebrations, the Balinese people don’t start the New Year with a “bang”. In most western countries we welcome the New Year in revelry, in Bali, we start in silence.
The Balinese calendar consists of 12 months, each month begins the day after a new moon. The last day of the year; “Tawur Agung Kesang” is the “Day of Great sacrifices”. The goal is to ban all “Buta Kala” (the evil spirits) from the island. We do this by making giant, spooky monster statues called Ogoh-Ogoh. These monsters made out of paper mâché and bamboo symbolise the evil spirits in our environment. In the evening, there are carnival parades all over the island. Accompanied by a lot of noise and light burning torches the Ogoh-Ogoh are set on fire so that the “Bhuta Kala” are banned from the island and out of our lives.
The first daNyepi, the Day of Silence, which this year will fall on the 21st of March 2015. After the carnival, streets and beaches are empty and Bali remains silent for 24 hours. Starting at 6 AM on Nyepi day, no working or traveling is allowed and people have to stay in their houses. Light is to be kept at a minimum and even entertainment or pleasure is not allowed.
Bali will be covered in darkness so that if the evil spirits come back to the island, they will think it is uninhabited. They will decide to pass on and leave Bali alone for the next year. For the Balinese this is a day of self-reflection, where we think about what we have done wrong in the past year.
As for tourists, you are more than welcome to celebrate the carnival the day before Nyepi with us. On Nyepi day, traditional Balinese security men, called Pecalang, will prevent any disturbance of Nyepi and so it is recommended to stay inside out of respect for the Hindu culture. Read a book or have an afternoon nap and keep in mind that all shops are closed until 6am the next morning!