Merry Christmas From Tegaljadi

Dear Mommy,

This Christmas, I won’t be able to see you and dad. Such a pity but I have a story to tell. I am celebrating Christmas in the Island of Gods in Bali, in a village called Tegaljadi. They have no church for me to see God in a proper ritual. I never forget, however, you convinced me that I do not need a special place to see Him. And here I am, sitting still next to the Merajan, a family temple, beautifully sculptured with Balinese ornament.

Christmas this year is only one day before Galungan, a sacred ritual when my Hindu friends celebrate the victory of Dharma over Adharma. They mark the day as a reminder that the good will always win a battle over the evil. Not only a sacred ritual, Galungan is also a festive season. They gathered with relatives and neighbors and shared happiness.

Mommy, I heard no gospel songs. Instead, I heard a unfamiliar chanting coming out beautifully from a group of mature women in Merajan. I saw no glory Christmas trees with glitter of lamps and lights. Instead, I enjoyed the beauty of penjor decorated by palm leaves, flowers, and fruits. I did not see any gifts hanging on a Christmas tree but I smell a calming aroma from dupa, incense sticks that they use for praying. However, there’s one thing that made me feel a stronger connection. Very early at the dawn, I heard people were praying around a cubby swine for it would bring more joy to the festive. God bless the beautiful creature.

Mommy, I heard no preach this time. Instead, I enjoyed a prayer coming out from a mouth of an old Pemangku. He used simple language to submit all the offering to the God. I did not hear any Sanskrit, no difficult Mantra. He talked casually as if he was talking to a good friend that he respects. To him, God is so close and so friendly. I heard he said “niki wenten damuh Ida rauh meaturan tipat akelan lan taluh abungkul”. A friend told me, it was a simple Balinese language to describe the offering of Men Kocong, a mother form a modest family, that he helped to be in touch with God.

I like the language of the Pemangku. It was so simple, so easy to understand. As if the Pemangku wanted to make sure that he was telling the truth representing Men Kocong’s prayer. The Pemangku intentionally used the language that an uneducated Men Kocong would be able to understand. God, on the other hand, certainly understands any language. I remember you told me about this once. I found a confirmation of your teaching, here in Tegaljadi, next to the Merajan.

Mommy, I might not hear any preach, neither gospel song but I feel the same happiness. I enjoyed my closeness with God and the warmth of a family. Penjor will never replace my memory about Christmas tree but it gives me different sides of the beauty of gifts and being grateful. I met no Santa here in Tegaljadi but I fell kindness, joy and care of the villages who’d never let me leave their house without enjoying their delicacies. I felt, in Tegaljadi, Santa lives in everybody’s kind and warm heart.

I still miss you and Dad. I still miss gospel song from our church. I still miss our family gathering next to our sparkling Christmas tree. But at least I am not sad. I’ve witnessed different things here in Tegaljadi but I felt the same values. Merry Christmas, Mommy.



Author: Andi Arsana

I am a lecturer and a full-time student of the universe

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