The History and Meaning Behind the Games Played in the Celebration of Indonesia’s Independence Day

Posted on 21 August, 2020

Indonesian version, click here

Researched and written by Dinda Amalia Ichsani – AIYA National’s Blog Editor

Translated by – Adolf Richardo BS – AIYA National’s Translator Content

One of the most awaited events in the celebration of Indonesia’s Independence Day is the games and competitions. Children, teenagers, and adults play games and compete with each other to celebrate the day, have fun together, and to win prizes.

The games played may be different in each region, and many new games created every year. However, there are several traditional games that become identical with Indonesia’s Independence Day celebration, such as balap karung (gunny sack race), cracker eating, panjat pinang (greasy pole climbing), tug of war, and bakiak race. However, this year is different, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People are advised to celebrate Independence Day modestly and not to gather in a large crowd, to prevent the spread of the pandemic. 

Most of us have participated in one or more of those games. However, do you really know why those games become identical with Indonesia’s Independence Day? In this article, we will tell you why.

According to the information available, the tradition of playing games to celebrate Indonesia’s Independence Day began when Indonesia celebrated its fifth anniversary in 1950. However,it is not clear who is the figure who started the tradition. In that year, the fight to defend Indonesia’s independence began to subside, and people could celebrate Indonesia’s independence with joy and happiness, and they reflect their joy through the games.

  • BalapKarung

Many believe that this game is a form of celebration of Indonesia’s independence from Japanese colonialism. At that time, the Indonesian people only wore clothes made of gunny, plastic or rubber sacks. As a matter of fact, this competition has been popular since the Dutch first landed in Indonesia. At first, Dutch missionaries played this game to entertain Dutch institutions. As time goes by, many Indonesian people also interested to participate, and the game became really popular until today

Sumber : Jogja Update

  • Panjat Pinang

In the past, this game was used as a form of entertainment for the colonialists at weddings and other parties. The Dutch held this game, and the participants were Indonesians who fought over ‘luxury items’ such as cheese, sugar, and shirts that were placed at the top of the pole. At present, the pinang climbing competition can be interpreted as the long way for Indonesians to gain their independence, oil is the symbol of the obstacles in the way, and the prizes at the top symbolize Indonesia’s success in gaining independence.

Sumber : Kumparan

  • Cracker eating

The idea for this game came from the life of Indonesians soldiers during the War of Independence. They often only had cheap foods, like crackers, to eat during the fight. Despite this, their spirit to fight for Indonesia’s independence never went away

Sumber : IDWS

  • Tug of war

Although tug of war did not originate from Indonesia, it was used as a symbol of struggle and resistance against the Dutch. During the Dutch colonial era, the Indonesian people were forced to work hard and became slave labor to move stones, sand and various other heavy objects. Then, an idea emerged from those workers to use tug of war to find out who was the strongest, as well as a form of entertainment.

Sumber : AMC News

  • Bakiak

Actualy, bakiak race is a traditional game from West Sumatra. Bakiak itself a type of sandal whose soles are made of a light wood with used tires nailed to both sides. People said that the idea for bakiak came from the traditional Japanese artists, who commonly used wooden sandals. In bakiak race, the most important things are cooperation and harmony, rather than speed. This game symbolizes the cooperation and solidarity of Indonesian people who fight together to gain their independence

Sumber : Tokopedia Blog

There are other types of games that are played during the celebration of Indonesia’s Independence Day. However, those mentioned above are the most popular ones. By understanding the history and meaning behind those games, we hope that you can truly appreciate and respect those who fought hard to gain Indonesia’s independence. 

References

https://www.suara.com/lifestyle/2014/08/17/152418/ini-sejarahnya-tradisi-lomba-17-agustus?page=2

https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2019/08/13/06000031/jelang-hari-kemerdekaan-kenali-sejarah-dan-makna-lomba-17-agustus?page=all

https://akurat.co/hiburan/id-58715-read-pahami-sejarah-permainan-balapbakiak?page=2