Indonesian Language Blog

Celebrating Thanksgiving: the vocabulary in Indonesian Posted by on Nov 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

When you search Google for the translation of Thanksgiving to  Indonesian, Google will return several results, such as “Hari Bersyukur,” “Hari Syukuran,” “Hari Thanksgiving,” and ‘Hari Pengucapan Syukur.” However, “Hari bersyukur” and “Hari syukuran” are the closest to the English meaning. These phrases are sometimes used interchangeably. “Hari bersyukur” has more nuance in terms of expressing emotion.

If you want to explain the concept to Indonesians, you can refer to Thanksgiving as “Selametan” or “Syukuran.” Even though it is not held nationally like in the U.S, it serves the same purpose, which is to give thanks to God or Allah the sacred and the mighty (SWT) for life events or milestones, such as school graduation, childbirth, wedding anniversary, and successful company sales.

In the selametan event, “nasi tumpeng,” a yellow rice platter in the shape of an inverted cone, is served as the main part of the ceremony. The peak of the ceremony is marked by the instance when the top of the yellow rice platter is cut, which is known as “memotong tumpeng,” by the head of the household or the head of a department.

IcoNYCa_ThanksgivingTurkey (2)

Like a Thanksgiving menu that has turkey as the main dish, in the selametan, yellow rice in the shape of an inverted cone is the main dish. Added to it are side dishes like tempe goreng (sliced fried sweet tempeh), ayam goreng (special fried chicken), opor ayam (Javanese chicken and egg curry), perkedel (potato croquette filled with beef) and sayuran (vegetables).

GrahamHill_NasiTumpeng (2)

Nasi Tumpeng – Yellow Rice Platter

You can refer to the Thanksgiving trip by Americans as ‘mudik’, an annual mass pilgrimage in Indonesia during the last two weeks of Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month. Millions of Indonesians who work and live in the city make the annual journey by all means of transportation to their hometowns, including thousands of Indonesians who make the trip from overseas, to celebrate ‘Lebaran’ (Ied-el-Fitr) with their parents, relatives, and families.

ThanksgivingTraveler (3)

Thanksgiving Travelers at the airport

YouTube_NewProduction_Mudik (2)

Mudik travelers in Indonesia

The following are related terms and phrases used when you explain Thanksgiving:

How to say it in English How to say it in Indonesian
Thanksgiving day Hari bersyukur or Hari syukuran
To be  celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November Dirayakan pada hari  Kamis keempat (hari Kamis terakhir) di bulan November.
A tradition of pardoning thanksgiving turkey by the president  at the white house Tradisi mengampuni kalkun hari bersyukur oleh presiden di Gedung Putih.
Thanksgiving is a federal holiday. Hari bersyukur adalah hari libur nasional.*
… is a time to gather with family and friends … adalah Saat untuk berkumpul dengan keluarga dan teman-teman
To say the grace before the meals Berdoa untuk mengucapkan syukur sebelum makan
Thanksgiving dinner Makan malam hari bersyukur
Specific menu on Thanksgiving Menu khas saat thanksgiving
Main dish Makanan utama
Side dish Makanan pelengkap
Thanksgiving menu

-Roast turkey or fried turkey

-Mashed potatoes

-Cranberry sauce

-Sweet potatoes casserole

-Green beans casserole

-Turkey gravy

Menu makanan Hari Bersyukur

-Kalkun pang gang atau kalkun goreng

-Kentang lumat (in a big city, you can use the English term)

-Saus kranberi

-Kaserol ubi/ubi panggang

-Kaserol buncis/bunch panggang.

-Saus kalkun

Pumpkin pie Pai labu or pie labu
Apple pie Pai apel or pie apel
Black Friday shopping Hari berbelanja Jumat Hitam
Cyber Monday Berbelanja online pasca Thanksgiving pada hari Senin.


How are you going to tell the Indonesian friends or colleagues about Thanksgiving in the Indonesian language?





Turkey: image by IcoNYca via commons

Tumpeng: image by Graham Hill via commons

Thanksgiving travelers: image by Consumer Traveler.

Mudik travelers: image by Youtube news


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About the Author: asimonoff

I’m an Indonesian language instructor, instructional material developer, reading test developer, and interpreter. I have been teaching Indonesian to adult students for 15 years, and have been teaching students from many backgrounds, such as private, military and diplomatic service employees. I’m Indonesian, but am living in the US now; my exposure to different cultures in my home country and in the US has enriched my knowledge in teaching Indonesian as a second language. I approach the teaching of the Indonesian language by developing students’ critical cultural awareness and competence. This method of teaching has been proven to be a key to the success of my students. Students become conscious of the essential role culture plays in the language.