In many places, like Bali for example, these traditions are often intriguing; sometimes they take a little time to understand, but almost always they leave us with new found inspiration and a deeper connection to the destinations that afford us the joy of sharing their land.
One such Balinese tradition, Omed Omedan, quite possibly marks the early foundations of playground antics elsewhere in the world, and could easily be seen as the birthplace of western children bursting through the school doors at break time for an innocent game of kiss-chase.
This, of course, is not a proven fact, but if we explore a little further, the similarities are hard to ignore, and it does have you pondering how differing cultures from thousands of miles afar, can impact and influence us all. Even if in retrospect, they could be considered a little taboo. Depending on your liberal tolerance of course.
With St. Valentine’s just around the corner, we thought we’d take a look at this cultural tradition, which is not only a local custom but an experience that fascinates curious tourists from all over the world.
Every year in the small village of Banjar Kaja, Denpasar, a century-old Balinese ritual happens known as Omed Omedan, or ‘The Kissing Ritual.’ Omed Omedan, meaning pull-pull in the Balinese language, is a ceremony celebrated by the whole village of Sesetan, where the single boys can kiss the single ladies of their village without consequence; indeed, it’s their given right!
Or at least at one time, it was, but that’s no longer strictly true. In line with a global appreciation for social agenda and equality, The Kissing Ritual has become a more subtle affair, and although its name remains the same, the community have come to respect that the world has changed and therefore adopted a more acceptable form of courtship where participants are now invited to share a hug with their opposite number.
Who doesn’t welcome a hug, right?
But far from it being a misogynistic event, the ceremony is rather endearing and believed to instil good relations between the male and female youths of the village. St. Valentine himself may well have approved, as the engaging ritual has long been seen as a romantic way for couples to meet and strike up relationships.
The name Omed Omedan originates from the fight between a male and female pig and represents the pulling and pushing movement of positive and negative elements. It occurs this year on 8th March, the day after Nyepi, ‘the silent day, or Saka New Year’, and invites the youths of the village to celebrate the New Year in this unique way.
Hundreds of people from neighbouring villages and tourists visiting Bali flock to the road where the ceremony takes place to catch a glimpse of the frivolities, capture a moment on film or attempt to be a part of the action themselves.
Make sure you get there early though! The ceremony begins at 2 pm, but the streets can get pretty packed very quickly, with people trying to get the best viewing spot.
Bachelors and bachelorettes aged 17-30 take to the village to begin the rituals. It starts with a prayer in the Banjar temple, to evoke safety for the ceremony. They are then divided in half facing the opposite sex and wait for the signal from the Hindu leader for the hugging to begin.
Males and females approach each other slowly, and when they meet in the middle, the men pull the girls towards them to hug them while other villagers pour symbolic buckets of water over the couple.
This ritual has been passed down from generation to generation for over 100 years, and though time has helped the annual event evolve toward a more modern spectacle, complete abandonment will never again be on the cards. This is because the villagers believe it would bring bad luck to the village if it ever stopped.
And for a good reason too; during the ’80s the ceremony was dismissed for a year, and sickness struck the community. It caused pigs to fight, and chaos throughout the streets as the local people struggled to separate the pigs. Ever since the festival has diversified but resumed, for fear of disaster descending upon the village once again.
Today the ceremony has become a pretty big deal and a very prominent event. With the likes of, live dancing, bands and street vendors, giving even more of a reason to visit!
Still on the fence and wish to experience something a little more conventional with your Valentine in Bali? Well, don’t worry! As always we’ve got you covered, and this year it pays to stay a little longer too!