Christmas Celebration in Papua

The majority of the people in Papua are Christian devout, therefore, it is no wonder that the Christmas celebration in Papua is very festive. The tradition of Christmas celebration in Papua is also very unique. It is a worth a special occasion to go around Jayapura city at night just to see beautiful Christmas huts recreating nativity scenes.

During Christmas, we will see in the streets of Papua plenty of beautiful Christmas huts with Christmas songs being played 24 hours. These Christmas huts are the depictions of the nativity scene where Jesus Christ was born in a barn. However, what makes it interesting is that the people in Papua decorate it with Christmas ornaments and flickering lights. The best part is, as though to be one with the spirit of Christmas celebration in Papua, although no one guard the decorations, no attributes or lights went missing.

christmas celebration in Papua
Christmas hut in Papua via


Almost in every region, Christmas hut is a must have for Christmas celebration in Papua. Possibly, according to father Herman Saud, former Head of Sinode Christian Protestant Church in Papua, the people of Papua think of Christmas hut as the symbol of Jesus Christ birth in a barn in Betlehem, thousands of years ago.

Every year in Papua the youths of church always start Christmas by building these Christmas huts. The huts are being decorated with ornaments from Santa Claus dolls, Christmas tree, bells, church miniature, and decorative lights. Religious songs come from the huts. At night, the huts become more beautiful with the lights that lights up until morning. Every hut has their own special characters.

The youths are competing to build the most creative hut, for example the Christmas hut in Polimak, Jayapura city, uses used plastic bottles and being neatly arranged to form a Christmas tree. Therefore, in the last few years, the government of Jayapura city competes the making of Christmas hut.

The Christmas hut in Papua is not only being built on the side of the streets, in front of the house or offices, but also in National Armed Forces posts and police post stations. It can be found all over Papua, from Sorong, Manokwari, Wamena, Merauke, Sarmi until Keerom.

The Christmas hut has also encouraged religious tolerance. Muslims have been involved and voluntarily build the huts each year.  Syarifudin Galu, the Imam of Masjid Jabal Qubais of Santa Rosa, Jayapura city said that the religious tolerance shown by the Christians by, for example, welcoming the use of loud speaker to announce the call for Shalat, have inspired the Muslims in Papua to help build the Christmas huts.

Another traditional Papuan celebration that is never absent to be held every Christmas is bakar batu. In Papua, after the people have finished attending the Christmas mass or Christmas Eucharist, they will hold the traditional Papuan celebration which is bakar batu.

Bakar batu has been used, for example, to commemorate or welcome something as a symbol of gratefulness, such as the birth of a newborn in a village or a wedding where many friends and family are invited. It can also serve a purpose of celebrating traditional wedding, inauguration of a head of village, and others. This ritual is usually presented to tourists that come to Papua. In practice, and in social settings, the bakar batu tradition is not only about processing food and eating together, but also as a mean to strengthen relationship among the people in a village, between tribes, or even between cultures.

Bakar batu is done by  burning the stones in several piles. Stones are being piled on the fireplace and burnt until the fire woods are used up and the stones become hot (sometimes, even until flaming red). Meanwhile, others dig a deep hole. The hot stones are then being placed inside the hole, where the bottom has already been covered with banana leaves and grasslands. On top of the hot stones, chopped pork meats are piled on top of banana leaves. The pork meats are covered with banana leaves and more hot stones are being piled, then covered it yet again with banana leaves. On top of the leaves, they put sweet potatoes (batatas), cassavas (hipere) and other vegetables, then cover it with more leaves. On top of the leaves on the highest layer, more hot stones are piled and then lastly, covered with banana leaves and grasslands. When everything is cooked and ready, the people would gather to eat the feast together.


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