by Matt Anker and Basa Hutabarat

‘Selamat Hari Paskah’ means ‘Happy Easter’ for members of the Batak churches of Indonesia. Easter is an all-day celebration despite being a regular workday for most in this predominantly-Muslim South-East Asian nation. Women play a particularly important role in traditional observances which, in many places, begin at 5.00am.

Pre-dawn prayer and song 

In rural areas, women gather to re-enact the journey of ‘Mary Magdalene and the other Mary’ who rose early to anoint the Lord on the first Easter day. With lanterns in hand, these modern-day ‘Marys’ march to the cemetery to sing and pray. They next process to the church where the children are already hunting for Easter eggs and together celebrate the resurrection until around 8.00am.

Food is an important feature of Batak celebrations and, after this first Easter worship, they enjoy a traditional Batak cake called ‘lapet’. (Here’s a recipe if you want to try it:

Worship, food, fashion, learning … you name it!

At 10.00am the congregation returns for worship which typically lasts several hours. The importance of Easter is further emphasised through afternoon activities, which typically involve a traditional food festival, along with events such as choral performances and fashion shows which encourage people to dress well for worship.

Indonesian Christians are eager to learn more regarding faith and so seminars are often held on Easter Sunday. Games such as ‘Name that hymn’ are also enjoyed, as a musician plays part of a hymn and participants vie to name its title and its number in the hymnal!

Encouragement facing persecution

These activities do more than celebrate an important day on the liturgical calendar. Christians in Indonesia take encouragement from their Easter celebrations to persevere in the faith in the face of grave persecution, being renewed in the sure hope of the resurrection. As St Paul says, ‘If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his’ (Romans 6:5).

Pastor Matt Anker is the LCA/NZ’s Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission and Rev Basa Hutabarat is executive secretary of the National Committee of Lutheran World Federation churches in Indonesia. For more about the Easter traditions of the LCA’s partner churches, visit

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