For those of us in the western hemisphere, this March 21 is merely the big thaw into spring after hibernating all winter. In Bali, Indonesia, it’s New Year’s Day.
But they don’t say Happy New Year there, exactly. They might say Happy Nyepi. Meaning Happy Day of Silence.
Nyepi is a Hindu holiday that generally falls around this time.
It’s a time for solemn self-reflection for those who worship. Nothing requiring a lot of energy or exertion is allowed. That means no lights (maybe a candle or two, depending how observant you are), working, working out, going anywhere, or watching Netflix. Basically, the place shuts down.
I’d been to Bali a long time ago and found myself learning more about Australia than Indonesia. (Bali’s a big Aussie hangout, given the proximity; there’s a wickedly funny song about that.) That trip was a useful introduction to Oz, given that I ended up living there for a time, but it would have been nice to learn about both countries.
Anyway, I was alerted to Nyepi today by Facebook acquaintance Sandra, a lovely woman I’d met traveling on the Eastern & Orient Express train through Southeast Asia.
She and her equally warm husband said not a word about my lame attempt at channeling Agatha Christie on this sister train of that other, more-famous one through Europe.
They have several homes, one of them in Bali.
This was how her kitchen looked today. Her explanation: Cooking in the dark@ home. It’s Silence Day in Bali, and it is forbidden to switch on any lights ( except candlelight) in the house, no one is allowed to go out of their house either ( 24 hours from 6am today until 6am tomorrow).
It’s a different story leading up to the New Year, when the days are a frenzied time, filled with all kinds of rituals clearing out the old to make way for the new.
Elaborate effigies are paraded around and then burned to rid the world of so-called evil spirits.
This was the scene at Sandra’s house, a “cleansing ceremony” to keep all the bad spirits out. With the newest members of Sandra’s family — two darling adopted dogs — supervising.
My impromptu shrine on my desk in the U.S. Happy Nyepi.