In Jogja, there is a cultural ceremony called as "Sekaten" which is more popular known as "Pasar Malam Perayaan Sekaten" or "Jogja Expo Sekaten" since before the true ceremony of Sekaten is held, there is always a yearly evening market for the whole month. This tradition begins since Demak Palace (16th century) and is held once a year on Maulud, the third month of the Javanese year, which takes place at Alun-alun Utara Kraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat.
The origin word of Sekaten derives from several versions. Some say Sekaten comes from the word "Sekati" that is the name of two equipments of the sacred weapons of Kraton, in the form of gamelan which is known as Kanjeng Kyai Sekati used in the commemoration of Maulud Nabi Muhammad SAW. Others say that Sekaten comes from the word "suka" and "ati" (= like, pleasant) since the people are gathered in happiness during the evening market at Alun-alun Utara.
Another opinion says that Sekaten is obtained from "syahadataini", the most two famous sentences in Syahadat Islam, that is syahadat taukhid (Asyhadu alla ila-ha-ilallah) which means "I testify that there is no God but Allah" and syahadat rasul (Waasyhadu anna Muhammadarrosululloh) which means "I testify that Muhammad is God's prophet".
Sekaten is already considered as dakwah Islam and art. It was begun when Islam entered Java Island through one of Wali Songo (that is Sunan Kalijaga) and using karawitan (Javanese gamelan) to attract public to come to the karawitan performance using gamelan Kanjeng Kyai Sekati. In the middle of the show, there was a sermon and reading Al-Qur'an. For those who wanted to enter Islam religion, they must say Syahadat as a statement of loyalty to Islam teachings.
Among the people in Jogja, there is a belief that by following birthday ceremony of Nabi Muhammad SAW, they will get reward from the Almighty, and can stay young forever. As a condition they have to chew "sirih" at the front yard of Masjid Agung Yogyakarta, especially the first day of Sekaten. Therefore during the ceremony there are many people sell sirih, nasi gurih, etc at Kemandungan, Alun-alun Utara or in front of Masjid Agung Yogyakarta. To the farmers they wish for a better harvest and they will buy a whip for their wish.
There are two preparation, physical and spiritual. Physical preparation will have Gamelan Sekaten, Gendhing Sekaten, coins, kanthil, uniform of Sekaten, samir niyaga, etc and also the script of maulud Nabi Muhammad SAW.
Gamelan Sekaten is the sacred weapon of Kraton which is called as Kanjeng Kyai Sekati in two "rancak", they are Kanjeng Kyai Nogowilogo and Kanjeng Kyai Guntur Madu. Gamelan Sekaten was made by Sunan Giri and it is known as the first gamelan with laras pelog. The stick is made of bull's horn and to create a good sound, stick must be carried over the forehead before hitting the gamelan.
Gendhing Sekaten is the song (gendhing) of Sekaten, they are Rambu pathet lima, Rangkung pathet lima, Lunggadhung pelog pathet lima, Atur-atur pathet nem, Andong-andong pathet lima, Rendheng pathet lima, Jaumi pathet lima, Gliyung pathet nem, Salatun pathet nem, Dhindhang Sabinah pathet em, Muru putih, Orang-aring pathet nem, Ngajatun pathet nem, Batem Tur pathet nem, Supiatun pathet barang, and Srundeng gosong pelog pathet barang.
Spiritual preparation is held by "abdi dalem" Kraton Yogyakarta; they will cleanse their body, soul, and mind.
Sekaten will began on 6 Maulud (Rabiulawal) in afternoon by carrying gamelan Kanjeng Kyai Sekati out, Kanjeng Kyai Nogowilogo will be at Bangsal Trajumas and Kanjeng Kyai Guntur Madu at Bangsal Srimanganti. Two squad of abdi dalem will guard the gamelan, they are troops of Mantrijero and Ketanggung. At the front yard of Kemandungan or Keben, there are so many people selling kinang and nasi wuduk.
After sholat Isya, some abdi dalem will report to Sri Sultan that the ceremony is ready to begin. When Sri Sultan has given the order, Sekaten will begin by playing Kanjeng Kyai Sekati. First of all is Kanjeng Kyai Guntur Madu with gendhing racikan pathet gangsal, dhawah gendhing Rambu. Then continue Kanjeng Kyai Nogowilogo with gendhing racikan pathet gangsal, dhawah gendhing Rambu. Both gamelan is played one another simultanously between Kanjeng Kyai Guntur Madu and Kanjeng Kyai Nogowilogo. In the middle of the gendhing performance, Sri Sultan will visit and gendhing will be played as soft as possible until Sri Sultan leaves the place. Sri Sultan will spread udhik-udhik at the front gate of Danapertapa, bangsal Srimanganti, and bangsal Trajumas.
24.00 WIB sharp, gamelan Sekaten will be moved to Masjid Agung Yogyakarta with guardiance of abdi dalem Mantrijero and Ketanggung. Kanjeng Kyai Guntur Madu is placed at pagongan on the southward of Masjid Agung and Kanjeng Kyai Nogowilogo at pagongan on the northward. Gamelan Sekaten will be played continously for days and nights during six days, besides on Thursday night until Friday noon.
On 11 Maulud (Rabiulawal), 20.00 WIB, Sri Sultan will come to Masjid Agung to present the ceremony of Maulud Nabi Muhammad SAW where the script of maulud Nabi will be read by Kyai Pengulu. The ceremony will accomplished at 24.00 WIB, and then after all, gamelan Sekaten will be brought back from Masjid Agung to Kraton. This is a symbol that the ceremony of Sekaten is finished.