Father Eduardus Didik Chahyono SJ leads a Christmas Mass at the Catholic Church of the Santa Theresia Bongsari Parish, Semarang, Central Java, on Thursday. (Antara Photo/Aji Styawan)

Indonesians Celebrate Low-key Christmas Amid the Pandemic


DECEMBER 24, 2020

Indonesians have celebrated Christmas with online masses and low-key services on Thursday as the Covid-19 pandemic entered its worst turn across the archipelago with accelerating growth in the number of new cases, active cases, and deaths.

The Religion Affairs Ministry has allowed churches to hold Christmas services but limit the number of congregation members who could attend and require the curses to impose strict health protocols. 


The number of people who can participate in the Christmas services inside the church does not exceed 50 percent of the church capacity. For those who cannot attend, the state television broadcaster TVRI live-streamed a Christmas eve mass on Thursday from Parish of Kelapa Gading in Jakarta. Other parishes or churches also broadcasted their services on their social media or Youtube channels.  

As the Covid-19 cases in Indonesia jumped by close to 154,000 in this month alone, already higher than any other months since the pandemic began, the churches went far and beyond to ensure their congregate members' safety. 

The Santo Yosef Catholic Church in Palembang, South Sumatra, sterilized all rooms with disinfectants. Every church in the country has to put physical distancing signs on the floor and chairs, at a minimum distance of one meter.

Besides tightening health protocol guidelines, church safety issues are still a national priority. Indonesian National Police deployed 8,179 joint personnel to securing Christmas Eve services from any possible threats in 1,635 churches in Jakarta and its surroundings.

Mudik, an annual ritual for peoples to go back to their hometown to see families and friends on Christmas, is also subject to strict health protocols. Travelers who travel by plane and train must take the rapid antigen or the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

Indonesia reported 7,199 new cases and 181 deaths due to Covid-19 overnight, bringing the total to 692,838, with death tolls reaching 20,589 on Thursday. The most populous country in Southeast Asia now has more than 108,000 active cases.

The government in Jakarta, the country's Covid-19 epicentrum, and its neighboring province Banten have warned its population about the healthcare system reaicing its maximum capacity for treating the Covid-19 patients. 

A man sprays disinfectant before the Christmas eve at Santo Yosef Church in Palembang, South Sumatra on Thursday (24/12). (Antara Photo/Nova Wahyudi)
On Thursday, a man sprays disinfectant before Christmas eve at Santo Yosef Church in Palembang, South Sumatra. (Antara Photo/Nova Wahyudi)
A man wearing Santa Claus costume gives a free coffee to a poor people at Central Jakarta on Friday (18/12). (Antara Photo/Aprillio Akbar)
A man wearing a Santa Claus costume gives free coffee to poor people in Central Jakarta on Friday. (Antara Photo/Aprillio Akbar)
Indonesian National Police wearing anti riot gear stands on guard inside a HKBP Ressort Church in Bandung, West Java on Thursday (24/12). (Antara Photo/Novrian Arbi)
Indonesian National Police wearing anti-riot gear stands on guard inside a Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) church in Bandung, West Java, on Thursday. (Antara Photo/Novrian Arbi)
Christmas mass prayer at HKBP Church in Sout Tangerang, Banten on Thursday (24/12). (Antara Photo/Fauzan)
Christmas mass prayer at HKBP church in South Tangerang, Banten, on Thursday. (Antara Photo/Fauzan)
A christmas tree made from bells and other accesories is seen at Catholic Church of St. Maria Annuntiata in Sidoarjo, East Java on Thursday (24/12). (Antara Photo/Umarul Faruq)
A Christmas tree made from wind chimes and other accessories is seen at the Catholic Church of St. Maria Annunziata in Sidoarjo, East Java, on Thursday. (Antara Photo/Umarul Faruq)
A woman enjoying a underwater santa show at Jakarta Aquarium in Neo Soho department store in West Jakarta on Tuesday (22/12) (Antara Photo/Aditya Pradana Putra)
A woman enjoying an underwater Santa show at Jakarta Aquarium in Neo Soho department store in West Jakarta on Tuesday. (Antara Photo/Aditya Pradana Putra)
The great christmas exodus is seen at Cikampek toll gate in Karawang, West Jakarta on Wednesday (23/12). (Antara Photo/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)
The great Christmas exodus is seen at Cikampek toll gate in Karawang, West Jakarta, on Wednesday. (Antara Photo/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)
A pilgrims visit her ancestor graveyard during christmas eve at Borgo Cemetery in Manado, North Sulawesi on Thursday (24/12). (Antara Photo/Adwit B Pramono)
A woman visits her relative's grave at Borgo Cemetery in Manado, North Sulawesi, on Christmas eve on Thursday. (Antara Photo/Adwit B Pramono)
A woman pray during online christmas mass prayer in Bekasi, West Java on Thursday (24/12). (Antara Photo/Dhemas Reviyanto)
A woman prays during an online Christmas mass prayer in Bekasi, West Java, on Thursday. (Antara Photo/Dhemas Reviyanto)