I hate New Year’s Eve. The food in every restaurant is overpriced, you need to order your bottle of champagne one hour before midnight (or you celebrate in a line in front of a bar), ah yes, and of course everyone is super drunk. On top of that you need to plan essentially three months ahead – the pressure is on. That’s why I usually spend my New Years at home with my friends, watching movies.
I had no idea that there are places in the world where New Years is celebrated totally differently, in fact in the opposite way: A day of silence!
The Balinese people celebrate the Hindu New Year in complete silence; meditating and reflecting. From 6am until 6am the next morning they don’t speak, eat or turn on the lights. Neither do they work, nor entertain themselves with TV or Internet. As a matter of fact, not only the Balinese people are involved, but also all tourists. The airport is closed for the entire 24 hours, as is every Restaurant. Ah! And did I mention that you cannot go on the streets? Only security is allowed out to patrol – making sure everyone sticks to the rule.
24 hours is easy right? That’s what I thought. I didn’t understand all the other tourists who were panicking about food and WIFI. I mean come on. But let me start one day before the New Year, before Nyepi.
The day before Nyepi the environment gets cleaned and all evil spirits shall be eliminated. This is the reason for the so-called Ogoh-Ogoh Parade. Every village build their own scary ogoh-ogoh statue with paperboard and then walk it around the village. At the end it is burnt to ashes. The parade starts sunset and takes around three hours. After the purification people dance in the street until 6am – Nyepi Day.
Not only did I get the chance to see a parade but I also walked with the people from house to house. Well me and about hundred other tourists. After the parade I went home, ready for Nyepi Day.
I wanted to spend the day like the locals, you know meditating, reflecting and stuff. But I skipped the not eating part. Now this is a problem if you hadn’t planned ahead and bought food. Best advice for Nyepi day: Stay in a Hotel. All restaurants close early afternoon one-day before Nyepi. Which means you need 4 meals: Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner again. That’s the reason why l stayed in a Hotel with a restaurant. And shame on me: I used Internet and I talked (but I tried to whisper). Well at least I didn’t turn on any lights. Which was quite tricky. Eating in the dark is one thing. But trying to have a shower is a completely different story. While I was showering I suddenly thought I saw a face OMG and then a flashlight in my open air shower. I ran out of the shower to get help from my roomy, yelling: “Someone is watching me and just took a picture of me”. My friend laughed and went back in the bathroom, turned on the lights (only real quick) and laughed even more. What I saw was the rooftop decoration and the flashlight? Just lightning. I never liked the dark that’s for sure and that didn’t help at all.
You may wonder: Why no lights? Well the whole point of not having light on the whole island (literally on the whole island) is to trick the evil spirits into thinking there are no human beings on the island and just fly over it.
Ever since I took my first footstep on this island I could feel, see and smell the spirituality from its people. The devotion they have for their gods can’t be described in words. Nyepi proved it even more to me. I admire them for their surrender to the gods. During my childhood I heard sentences like “If I can’t see it, it’s not real” or “I only believe what I see”. But here I can experience the opposite. Two day’s before Nyepi I witnessed the cleansing ceremony at the beach. Seeing a hundred people sitting at the beach, all dressed in white cloth with their offerings in front of them made me feel like we were on a different planet. I had goose pumps everywhere
Now I know for sure why Bali is called the island of gods.