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Giving Money In Javanese and Japanese Culture

I wonder why my parents make a long list of money that they use as a gift

After Ramadan month, a holy month for Muslims and we are fasting for one month, we celebrate Lebaran day. In Lebaran, it’s like heaven, especially for children. I was always waiting this day because my parents would buy a new pair of clothing and I and my brother would receive money gifts from our grandparents, aunts, uncles, also neighbours. Perhaps when I was in elementary school, I listened to my aunt who whispered this statement to my cousin, “If you met Uncle A, you should behave so you can please him and he would give you more money.”

Dear fellow Toastmasters and also the guest. This evening I want to elaborate my wonder in my own experience as a Javanese person since I was a kid. This question was related to my culture to give money. I was always happy to receive money as a gift, but at the same time, I think there were oddities in that culture.

Indonesia is well-known as a country with the biggest number of Muslim people. We also have many islands with unique cultures. There are similarities also differences, but as Muslims, we share the same custom for example on Lebaran Day.

I couldn’t forget my aunt’s statement. My parents taught me to be polite to everyone regardless of others’ social status and they also forbade me to ask for money, “Don’t ask for money in Lebaran. Let your uncle or aunt give you if they wanted it and had money to share it. Don’t be a beggar.”

Long story short, I stepped into adulthood. One by one, my friends are getting married and they invite their classmates and so on. The attendees who come to the wedding party are called doing ‘buwuh’ in Javanese ‘Buwuh’ means giving money as a gift to the bride and groom. Every village or city in Java has its amount standard to give money. But, the thing that made me wonder was seeing my parents who wrote a list in their journal after doing ‘buwuh’.

My parents were writing about every single piece of money that they gave to a wedding party. They said if it was our culture. People in Javanese villages will write a list containing the gift or money that they accept at their wedding or use as a gift at someone’s party. They want to give a fair amount to each other. If there was someone who rarely attended although they got an invitation, he or she could be a gossip target.

I just think like this, What if he or she was living on a tight budget? Because, in Javanese culture, people in the village can invite everyone even though they don’t know each other closely. An intimate wedding is so rare.

Meanwhile, after I learn the Japanese Language at my university, I also found some interesting facts. Giving money as a gift exists. Children always receive otoshidama on New Year’s Day.

The money is usually presented in a special envelope (noshibukuro) tied with a string. Before you buy envelopes, you should be clear about what kind of envelope you want to give as a gift for a particular occasion. For example, a black funeral envelope is of course not suitable for a wedding.

Now, after I learn and consider the culture, I can’t change the thing that I rather disagree with, but I have my own rule. If I didn’t know about the people who invite me to their wedding party, I won’t come and vice versa. I will give a present or money gift depending on our relationship, job position, and budget. For instance, I will give more amount to my close friend than my acquaintance. I will give a good gift, but the value won’t be the same. Beside that, I don’t want to count and compare what I receive from others.

Let’s spread our respect and love through gifts without thinking about how much or how many we can receive from others. Give it sincerely.



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Reffi Dhinar

Japanese Interpreter, book author, content writer. You also can read my Indonesian article on and