Mandok Hata: Batak New Year ritual, a blessing for some and a burden for others – Community

Johanes Hutabarat (The Jakarta Post)

Jakarta ●
Tue, January 11, 2022

mandok-hata, batak, Batak people, New Year celebration, indonesian-tradition, ceremony, traditional
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Most Batak families welcome the New Year by holding a reflection ritual called Mandok Hata. Some rejoice, but others feel tremendous stress

On the last New Years Eve, a debate over Batak’s end-of-year ritual, Mandok Hata, went viral on Twitter. The initial tweet featured the take on the original poster of how stressful it was for them each time the New Year rolled around, knowing that they had to face the potential judgment of family members regarding things. that they have (or have not) accomplished in the past year. Jakarta Post is not posting the original tweet or its user’s alias, to honor their request not to be interviewed and posted, due to the overwhelming negative responses they received for posting on the popular social media platform.

Mandok Hata’s literal meaning, “to transmit words,” indicates that this is the time for a Batak family – nuclear or extended – to reunite as one on New Year’s Eve (although it is sometimes also organized during New Year’s Eve). other large family gatherings, such as as birthdays). The process itself takes place after a short prayer session that takes place right after the clock strikes midnight.

There, each family member expresses their hope for the year ahead and follows it with an assessment of apologies for all the mistakes they’ve made over the past year and how they hope to do better. The youngest member of the family begins the process, before the whole room takes its turn.

The ritual is designed, and often functions, as a reflective assessment process that relies on self-honesty and the direct opinions of family members. As with any cultural ritual, each family is different and the effectiveness of Mandok Hata is different in each household. But for those, like the Twitter user above and the respondents who agreed with them, it often turns into a judgmental process where family members – often the older ones – really let out their grudges. repressed.

“Admission of mistakes by young family members is not only criticized per se, but opens the door to unrelated problems seen as shortcomings, if not failures, by parents, uncles and grown-ups. -parents, ”says Andre, a 30-year-old father. of two and education professional in Jakarta, who annually participates in Mandok Hata at his parents’ house. Andre, who preferred not to disclose his full name, said drama can arise when older family members who are having issues with each other use each other’s children as a proxy for their personal conflicts. and their resentment.

“It is often the occasion [for the elders] questioning your plans for school, marriage, work and that sort of thing, ”says Charles, a 41-year-old Batak, father-of-one and doctor who lives in Surabaya, East Java (Charles did not want to use his full name).

Family: Writer Johanes Hutabarat, (back in blue shirt) with his family just before Mandok Hata on New Year’s Eve 2018 (JP / Johanes Hutabarat). (JP / Johanes Hutabarat)

While Andre and Charles aren’t necessarily young, they agree that for young family members – teens and people in their twenties – the process can be emotionally (and physically taxing, as it can take until wee hours of the morning).

Responses to the original tweet saw thousands of Batak Twitter users who participated in the tradition each year, in polarizing positions. Some saw tradition as a glue that holds tradition and family together with a deep level of love and connection, with many giving examples of their elders also honestly expressing their own flaws and setbacks. Others, mostly younger Bataks, saw this as an atrocious and unfair custom that they had to participate in every year. While every member of the family can apologize, some consider this to be something the young Bataks are supposed to do, while the elders often focus only on their hopes for the coming year.

Sleeping tips

David Aritonang has never been thrilled with New Years Eve knowing that he has to attend the ceremony every year.

“First of all, it’s like we have to hear advice, late at night when we’re all feeling sleepy,” said the 29-year-old media worker.

David has spent every New Year’s Eve in his entire life with his family, turning down invitations to reunite with friends.

David cannot reject his father’s request to attend the ritual. He is aware of his father’s status as an eldest child, which in most Batak families means he is the central figure within the family, especially after the death of the grandfather and the grown-ups. -mothers of David.

David is also the first grandson of his extended family, making him the designated role model for his cousins.

But, David has never been comfortable when members of his family begin to question his future plans.

“When I was in college they asked me when I was going to graduate. It was like an ordeal for me,” David said. “After I graduated I was asked about my job. After I got my job they asked me about marriage. Maybe they care about me, but I think it was all useless, ”he added.

Like David, Artha Pandjaitan also has less of an interest in attending Mandok Hata. The 26-year-old employee has always felt uncomfortable attending Mandok Hata in her hometown on Samosir Island in North Sumatra.

She felt “exposed” in front of other family members. “I felt overwhelmed,” Artha said, adding that the emotion that comes as the day approaches is often overwhelming.

The day before last year, Artha had a year of relief. She did not have to attend Mandok Hata as she was staying in Jakarta. “Although I felt sad because we couldn’t meet, I felt relieved because I didn’t have to attend Mandok Hata,” she added.

Heart to Heart

Margith Damanik, a 27-year-old sports journalist, said she always felt it was an “assessment” process.

Margith compares it to an “apology forum”.

“[I think] we can say sorry right after making a mistake. So why should we keep it until the end of the year? “Said Margith, recalling her memories.

But like those who view the tradition in a positive light, Margith admits the ritual gave her life lessons. A concrete example is to understand why his parents are often seemingly anxious but also indifferent to certain things.

“My parents told me they were worried about my sister, who took a long time to graduate,” said Margith. “During that time, they had never shown their concern.”

Margith became more grateful for the ritual. “It’s like a heart to heart,” said Margith.

Patric Batubara perceives Mandok Hata as one of his essential rituals for each year. The 28-year-old official sees the ritual as a good time to share and apologize to his parents and younger brother and a time to reflect and be grateful.

Through Mandok Hata, he said, “We know how far and where God has taken me,” Patric said. “There are little checkpoints that we have to be thankful for,” he added.


Robert Sibarani, professor of anthropological linguistics at the University of North Sumatra (USU), said Mandok Hata had a good goal in mind. It is a tradition where each member of the family can express three things: gratitude, prayers and apologies.

Leadership: Robert Sibarani (wearing a brown hat) leads a Mandok Hata.  He believes that the head of the family plays a big role in determining the mood and the success of the tradition.  (Courtesy Robert Sibarani)Leadership: Robert Sibarani (wearing a brown hat) leads a Mandok Hata. He believes that the head of the family plays a big role in determining the mood and the success of the tradition. (Courtesy Robert Sibarani) (Personal collection / Courtesy Robert Sibarani)

Despite his good values, Robert said that a bad impression or misunderstanding among family members can be inevitable. It depends on the leadership capacities of the head of the household or uluanwhether it’s the parents or one of the firstborns, and how they run the forum.

Robert believes in a good uluan can avoid any misunderstanding.

The ritual debate will likely continue on New Years Eve. Those who appreciate the tradition will continue to follow it, while others who feel overwhelmed may stop practicing it.

For David, it is clear that he will participate, if only by obligation.

“I prefer gatherings without Mandok Hata,” said David. “But, as long as my father lives, it is compulsory to attend the ritual,” he added.

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