We celebrated New Year's 2011 in Costa Rica - with a home-made dinner, movie, a couple epic games of Jenga and delightful champagne. Our trip had only just begun, but the forecast for 2011 was already looking pretty swell.
Now we're getting ready to celebrate New Year's again, but this time in silence.
New Year's Day in Bali is called Nyepi Day, otherwise known as Bali's Day of Silence, and falls on the day after the dark moon of the spring equinox, thus beginning a new year in the Saku Hindu calendar.
This year, Nyepi Day is observed on March 5th - Saturday. It is a day for quiet self-reflection and meditation. From sunup to sundown there can be no working, no loud talking, no leaving the home, obviously no driving, no cooking, no light or electricity, even no fires or candles. All businesses are closed, including Bali's international airport in Denpasar. And most Balinese fast.
But the night before Nyepi is an entirely different sort of affair - ogoh ogoh's, enormous monsters made of bamboo and paper mache, are marched through the streets before being burned in a sort of exorcism in the town square. Representing evil spirits, the burning of the ogoh ogoh's represents a cleansing of evil from people's lives, before the year starts anew on Nyepi Day.
Villagers in our town of Lodtunduh have been busy building their ogoh ogoh's in the street outside our house virtually since the day we got here three weeks ago. What began as sticks of bamboo are now triple life size monsters - for some reason often very fleshy pregnant women or strange hybrid animals with human heads. Rarely child appropriate. Definitely a little frightening.
We're planning on heading into Ubud for the ogoh ogoh parade Friday night and have also been invited to watch some of the fanfare from Jesse's wood carving teacher's home in Mas. We're still discussing how exactly we're going to deal with Silent Day itself, which is obviously primarily a Hindu holiday, but also observed by non-Hindus out of respect for the Balinese.
While we don't plan on leaving our house or using electricity, we probably will be doing some cooking. We've got friends from home staying this week as well, so while there certainly won't be any yelling, we'll most likely do some whispering. Probably a lot of reading and a bit of writing - in a real notebook, no computer. Maybe we'll even give some longer meditation a go?
It often seems as if there's some sort of Hindu ceremony going on nearly everyday here, but it's pretty fun to be able to take part in one of the most significant of them all. There's also something really wonderful to me about the emphasis on self-reflection, cleansing and forgiveness when celebrating the New Year here, which despite having not yet actually experienced Nyepi makes me wish that we more often took the time to do something similar as part of our own New Year tradition.
Can you even imagine San Francisco (or even somewhere comparatively tiny like Mendocino) completely shutting down for the day? No lights? No talking? Nothing at all? I find it pretty unfathomable.
Wish us luck.