The VICE Guide to Right Now

There's No Such Thing as New Year's Eve In This Indonesian City

The party's always canceled in Banda Aceh.
Child holding a sparkler
Image via Shutterstock

It's nearly Christmas and we all know what that means—it's time to plan your New Year's Eve.

Now, if you're hoping for a celebration of Charlie Sheen levels of excess, then more power to you. But if you're one of those people who hates NYE and wants a night away from the incessant car horns, rowdy revelers, and overpriced drinks in an overpacked bar, then we have the perfect spot for you—Banda Aceh.


Banda Aceh, the provincial capital of Indonesia's Aceh province, is a city under the authority of Sharia Law. In fact, it's located in the only province in Indonesia allowed to enforce Islamic law, and, as such, it makes it the perfect place for anyone who hates NYE and all its over-the-top partying and optimism. Why? Because in Banda Aceh, NYE is banned.

That's right, for the past seven years, the government in Banda Aceh has banned NYE celebrations. And just in case anyone forgot (they probably didn't), the city government issued a new circular to local hotels listing all the things that won't be tolerated at the start of 2019. Things like what you ask? Fireworks, party horns, vehicle convoys, alcohol (obviously) and really any and all kinds of parties.

"All hotels are prohibited from holding events of any kind to celebrate the New Year," the city's mayor Aminullah Usman told local media. "If any hotel is caught doing so, God willing we will revoke their [business] permit."

Seems pretty serious if you ask me. President Joko Widodo's running-mate in the coming election, an Islamic scholar named Ma'ruf Amin who has, on more than one occasion, shown that he is more than a little conservative, is in support of Aceh's ban on NYE. And Anwar Abbas, the secretary general of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), told Kumparan that he was down with the ban as well because the economy wasn't good enough to party anyway.

And while a NYE in Banda Aceh definitely means you get to start 2019 without having to hear anyone's off-key karaoke, it's also a bit of a strange move. The MUI, the only authority allowed to issue a fatwa in Indonesia, is pretty neutral on the topic of NYE celebrations. NYE has been declared "mubah," by the MUI, meaning that you will not gain any rewards in the eyes of God from the act of celebrating, but that it’s also not a sin if you decide to do so. It only becomes a sin when it hits a level of excess.

Aceh, with its long list of human rights violations and recent track record of holding non-Muslims accountable to Sharia Law as well, means that it's probably not on a lot of people's year-end holiday list anyway. Which is sort of a shame because the surrounding islands and local coffee culture are definitely worth checking out.

In the rest of Indonesia, of course, you can celebrate NYE to your heart's content—alcohol, dancing, bad karaoke, and all. As long as you can stand the traffic and the crowds, that is.