You’d think that in a majority-Muslim country, Christmas would not be such a big deal, but you’d be wrong. Although perhaps 90% of Indonesians are Muslim, and there are substantial Buddhist and Hindu minorities, there are still approximately 20 million Christians of various types throughout the country. Plus all the expats, who are known for their disposable income. We’ve been getting a good feel for holiday cheer throughout Jakarta in the past weeks, even though it’s still 90 degrees out every day. All of the places where we used to see "Happy Idul Fitri" now say "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year." Instead of greens and yellows decorating buildings around town, now it’s greens and reds. There are Christmas lights up in the palm trees, and many store employees have to wear those silly Santa hats around. When you think about that, it’s weird. Our "Santa Claus" comes from the Dutch "Sinterklas," but Indonesia has imported the American/British/Australian view of jolly St. Nick instead of the version held by their colonial power.
We saw a lot of this when visiting a new mall this weekend. As we’ve described, malls are all the rage here, and they are always packed, so we’ve learned to go where the people are. People watching at this mall was interesting. There were many more obviously ethnic Chinese Indonesians than at the malls that we normally visit, and there was also a lot more conspicuous consumption going on. All of the trappings of the West were there as well, including Starbucks and probably a dozen other coffee shops/cafes, and a hugely popular bread store called "Bread Talk." As a side note, we are in agreement at the fact that the only Western food that we actively miss is fresh bread–going without cheese, olive oil, Italian-style pasta, pork, and Western-style salads has been surprisingly easier than we had expected.
Coincidentally, we checked out the giant grocery store Saturday night and found the elusive banana leaves! Our regular readers will recall that we’ve had some trouble finding these. We decided not to buy them, though, since we were on the way to a movie. However, we decided to do our grocery shopping there this week. Of course, can you guess what happened? Yesterday when we went back, they were out of banana leaves, which was particularly depressing as we were all set to engage in a flurry of cooking involving banana leaves. Sigh.