Christmas & New Year Celebration: Wrap-Up Tradition or ‘kuncikan’
Written by Olivian Polii, a former JoTravelGuide City Consultant – Manado
Celebrating Christmas and New Year is a common thing we celebrate every year. But have you ever heard of a tradition to wrap-up those two big celebrations? We have that kind of tradition here in Minahasa. I am talking about a dominant tribe in North Sulawesi – Indonesia.
In Minahasa and some other places around Manado & Bitung, we celebrate Christmas on December 25th & 26th (we call it the 1st & 2nd part of Christmas celebration). So is with New Year, it’s celebrated on January 1st & 2nd. Normally, we visit our relatives, friends, and neighbors on those dates. In some other places, they do not have any further celebration afterward. But for Minahasan people, it’s a little bit different.
The fact is, we have a unique tradition called kuncikan. Kuncikan is an Indonesian word (kunci: key, kuncikan: to lock / to end up / to wrap up) . The meaning of that word is not so familiar to the rest of Indonesian people since it’s just mostly used by Minahasan people to refer to the closing celebration of Christmas and New Year. Though in some areas they celebrate it every Sunday during the month of January, but generally, we celebrate it by the 4th Sunday or the last Sunday of January.
There is no official date for kuncikan. In some places, they hold kuncikan tradition every Sunday in January by riding on ‘bendi’, which is traditional two-wheeled carriage pulled by a horse, and visiting relatives & friends. It’s quite interesting since the main road traffic is dominated by bendi and along the roadside people are watching the passing bendis.
When I was a little child, I used to join the kuncikan celebration by riding on a truck, packed with other children in the village, and brought some rotten eggs. Wondering what those rotten eggs were for? Well, we call it our ‘war equipment’. This is how it works: on that day, children would collect as many rotten eggs as possible & spare a sum of money to pay for their ride on the truck for a back-and-fourth route. It used to be a harvesting day for truck drivers! There could be around 20 children in one truck and a single back-and-fourth route last in about 20 minutes. It was just a short route to some neighbor villages.
The riding started in the afternoon, some times around 2p.m. When the truck started to move, we started to sing joyous songs until we passed some other trucks from different direction (of course, the same purpose trucks for children to enjoy this fun thing), aaannnnddd…let the rotten eggs war begin!! Don’t try to imagine the smell on our heads & clothes when we got home after that!!
There is another unique way to celebrate kuncikan. In Manado, kuncikan is celebrated through a figura carnival. That’s quite fun to watch since you can see people put on weird-looking attire and make-up on their faces. An old lady in High School uniform, a grown-up man in Elementary School uniform, female wearing male’s attire and vice versa, any humorous idea they could think of will be performed on that carnival.
Figura carnival has been an annual tradition in Manado. Allegedly, it’s a Portuguese tradition that has been adapted in accordance with the local culture here.
I will post some pictures of kuncikan tradition soon after I have my pocket-camera repaired..(hope I could).
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