Festival – Sri Lanka

New Year festival – Sri Lanka

The Sinhala and Tamil New Year (‘Aluth Avurudhu’ in Sinhalese or ‘Puththandu’ in Tamil) is celebrated in April, at the end of the harvest season. The actual time of the New Year is determined by astrological signs and varies depending on the year. It is traditional to clean the house, buy new clothes and to light an oil lamp on this day. Many rituals such as making ‘kiri bath’ (milk rice) and ‘ganu dhenu’ (giving and receiving money or business transactions) are done at predetermined times which are also calculated by astrological signs. Following these rituals it is common to eat ‘kaung’ (an oil cake) and ‘kokis’ (a crisp sweetmeat that was originally Dutch). People often engage in New year games and the women play on ‘raban’ (???? : drums) to herald the new year.

I particularly enjoy this time of year since it is a time our whole family engage in rituals together. Unfortunately, this year I was not able to celebrate it while in Los Angeles, since it isn’t a common practice outside Sri Lanka. New Year’s is a great time to appreciate Sri Lankan culture since it’s a public holiday and pretty much everyone celebrates it. The streets are full of performers, parks are full of New Year games and the sound of drums can be heard even in the heart of the city. It is also a great time to enjoy some traditional cuisine.

I feel that Sinhala and Tamil New Year is the most important festival in Sri Lanka because it defines the people and the country. From the food to the games and music, it portrays Sinhala and Tamil culture. I often have my foreign friends over for the day so that they learn and partake in the festivities. Most youths wait for ganu dhenu since it usually means they get money to spend for the New Year. But, my favorite custom is making ‘kiri bath’. It is placed in a clay pot over an unlit fire and kept until an auspicious time. At that time the fire is lit and the milk overflows, symbolizing abundance for the New Year. The ‘kiri bath’ is sweet milk rice that is often enjoyed during other important days such as an individual’s birthday. My family also consumes it at the end of New Year’s Day.

I learnt most of these customs by firsthand experience although my parents and grandparents guided me through the finer points. I would, without fail, follow this tradition as I grow up and pass it on to all those that are interested.