Folk Games – Sri Lanka

Folk Games – Sri Lanka

On Sinhala and Tamil New Year it is common to play folk games. My favorite is pillow fighting. The two contestants sit on an elevated horizontal pole, with one hand behind their back and a pillow in the other.  They then pound each other until one of them drops to the floor. This is a game enjoyed by children as young as 10 years of age but is usually reserved for young adults. My friends and I often compete against each other although I have never emerged the victor.  A great sense of balance is required, and the angle of attack is crucial, pure power rarely triumphs. A mattress is usually placed under the pole so as not to injure falling contestants.

Another folk game is the bun eating contest. Contestants kneel down with their hands behind their backs. The first to eat the bun that’s hanging in front of them is declared the winner. This is a game reserved for youngsters. Many variations of this game are present, sometimes donuts are used or even pieces of bread. Often contestants participate just to ease their hunger.

Climbing the grease pole is arguable the most challenging folk game at the festival. Contestants are expected to climb up a heavily greased pole to reach an object at the top, usually a flag or ball. The pole could be as tall as 15 feet. Great dexterity and speed is required for this and usually latter contestants win due to the grease being rubbed off by previous contestants.

Another common game is blindfolding contestants, spinning them, and seeing if they can use a stick or pole with which to hit hanging clay pots full of milk. This could be compared to the tradition of breaking piñatas. Victors usually get drenched in milk.

All these folk games are learnt at a young age and are usually experienced firsthand. There is no concern about them being forgotten as they are celebrated every New Year. However, I encourage people to participate in them; it helps make the festivities more enjoyable and casual.