Nyepi, the Balinese new year, is the day of silence, inner purification and fasting. When I say silence, this is no joke, as even the international airport, Ngurah Rai, is totally closed down...no flights in, or out. Nothing is open, there are no cars or motorbikes on the road, and everyone is expected to be home, quiet, with lights off, TV off, no phones, no walking about, no cooking, no sex :<(...virtually a day of silence.
This could be a real bummer for tourists and expats except for two things. One is that on Nyepi day itself, many hotels and resorts have special packages, and it’s a great time to hang out at your hotel or home for the day with a good book. The other reason is the night preceding Nyepi day, or Nyepi eve.
Nyepi eve is a night of all out insanity, noise, and carrying on of all sorts led by the magnificent ogoh ogoh...those demonic creatures paraded up and down the streets of most every village across Bali. Every village in Bali takes great pride and care in the making of their ogoh, ogoh. These are paraded, up and down the streets mounted on an elaborate bamboo frame, much like those used to carry sarcophagi during cremation ceremonies.
Even the smallest of villages may make as many as five ogoh, ogoh, and the kids make their own, the ogoh, ogoh anak, anak. Innate Balinese creativity, or just simple insanity, you can be the judge of that.
The Balinese are well versed in handing down their traditions from generation to generation. And while Nyepi is steeped in deep religious meaning within Agama Bali Hindu, the Balinese are most creative in explaining the why of what goes on here to their kids. Having three of my own with my Balinese wife, I have heard this explanation many times, and I rather like it much more than trying to sort out the religious complexities that are involved.
The idea of Nyepi Eve, with all the ogoh, ogoh, the noise, the bamboo bombs, the yelling, the fireworks, is to attract the attention of all the evil spirits in the world to Bali on the last day of the year. But this is an intentional trick, as when they all arrive, just before dawn on Nyepi Day, we are all hiding and quiet. The evil spirits look around, and finding nothing of interest, and nobody to wreck their havoc upon, they leave for another year.
For other collectors of completely useless trivia (like me) Nyepi puts Bali as the New Year capital of the world and the only place on earth where the New Year is celebrated four times each year. We have January 1, the Chinese New Year (thank you Gus Dur), the Islamic New Year, and Nyepi. This may contribute to why it often seems difficult to get anything productive done around here! ;<)
Selamat hari raya Nyepi, Tahun Baru Saka Protected content .