Galungan is an Balinese Hindu ritual based on the 210 day Balinese calendar. It is a celebration of the triumph of good (Dharma) over evil (Adharma).
You know it’s Galungan when the tall carved bamboo poles adorned with decorations, called Penjor are in front of every building in Bali. Some of the penjors are modest, with only simple decorations, others can be grandiose with lustrous ornaments. Whatever the penjor they all carry the same meaning, to thank the gods for all that’s good.
The eve of Galungan is Penampahan Galungan, animals are sacrificed as special offerings which are meant to get rid of negativity in both the bhuana agung (the environment of the individual human being) and the bhuana alit (the inner world of the individual human being); the meat is afterwards prepared and cooked for traditional Balinese dishes such as lawar, babi guling, and satay. The Balinese, especially the children, are looking forward to Penampahan Galungan as it is a typical family party day with lots of delicious dishes, similar to how some nationalities celebrate on Christmas Eve.
From early morning on Galungan Day whiffs of incense carry through the air. The atmosphere is buoyant, like the western Christmas day. Everybody is coming out in their formal Balinese attire to visit neighbours and relatives.
The Galungan celebration continues until Kuningan, 10 days later. Kuningan is the day that marks the end of the Galungan festive season, by the departure of the ancestors, back to their own world. The ceremony surrounding Kuningan refers to special offerings made of yellow turmeric rice. Yellow is also the colour of the god Wisnu, the protector of the Hindu trinity.
For the non Balinese on the island you will notice shops, restaurants and other businesses owned or with high numbers of Balinese staff will be closed in the lead up to Galungan Day, possibly a couple of days later and on Kuningan Day. This is because Balinese people must travel back to their original village and assist the family and local community with the preparations required.
Below are the dates for upcoming Galungan holidays
Galungan: July 24th 2019, February 19th 2020, September 16th 2020, April 14th 2021, November 10th 2021.
Kuningan: August 3rd 2019, February 29th 2020, September 26th 2020, April 24th 2021, November 20th 2021.