Teachers’ Day is celebrated in Indonesia every November 25 to commemorate the founding of Persatuan Guru Republik Indonesia — the national Indonesian Teachers’ Association — in 1945. Though class is still technically in session, most schools celebrate with performances and ceremonies to honor teachers. Because Teachers’ Day fell on a Sunday this year, my school celebrated on Monday with a four-hour talent show organized by OSIS, the student government.
Eating was a big part of the celebration at my school. At the beginning of the day, OSIS representatives gave each teacher a box of cakes from a local bakery, along with flowers and a commemorative pen. We received a second box of cakes an hour later while we were watching the talent show, and more boxes of rice and chicken for lunch. Some of the teachers brought food to school as well, so we shared brownies, lapis legit (an Indonesian layer cake), and rambutan in the teachers’ lounge throughout the day.
The school principals opened the ceremony by cutting a tumpeng, or cone of yellow rice, a traditional food at Indonesian celebrations. The rice’s yellow color comes from turmeric and symbolizes good fortune. Traditionally the top of the cone goes to the most important person present. After cutting the rice, our principal gave a short speech before starting the festivities.
The main attraction of the day was a massive talent show organized by students. Sitting in the courtyard, we watched the students sing pop songs, perform modern and traditional dances, practice martial arts, and walk in a fashion show. Students stood in packs around the edges of the courtyard to watch, while those who couldn’t fit watched by hanging out the windows of their classrooms. We ended the day with a huge school-wide rendition of Gangnam Style, which the students memorialized with a YouTube video.
About the author: Catherine Brist is a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant based in Medan, North Sumatra. She graduated from Arizona State University in 2012 with a degree in English literature. Before joining the Fulbright program, she participated in the Critical Languages Scholarship program in Malang, East Java, during the summer of 2011.