Sri Lankan New Year
A faint sound of sweet-voiced koel rings in the spring breeze marking the beginning of Sri Lankan New Year celebrations. Sri Lankan New Year also known as the “Sinhala and Tamil New Year” is a significant cultural and religious festival that symbolizes the end of the old year, and the beginning of the new year. This year, the Sri Lankan New Year falls on the 14th of April.
Celebrating the Sri Lankan New Year
Sri Lankan New year is an extremely significant festivity that is celebrated with much pomp and fanfare. The entirety of Sri Lanka gears up into festivity mode to prepare for the celebrations. Each culture has its own unique way of welcoming and celebrating the New Year.
Sri Lankan New Year follows the spring equinox which is used to set the date for the festival. For many centuries both Sinhalese and Tamil astrology observed the solar calendar. New Year begins when the sun moves from the house of Pisces to the house of Aries.
While we celebrate the new year as one nation, you will see some noticeable differences between Sinhalese and Tamil celebrations.
Sinhalese New Year Celebrations
Prior to the arrival of the new year, home renovations take place. It is believed that cleaning and tidying up the household symbolizes the preparation for new beginnings.
Dawn of the New Year is indicated by the sound of firecrackers and the rhythm of rabana to mark the arrival of the new year. With the arrival of the new year, all families get ready to perform traditional rituals.
All rituals are started by following the auspicious timing. The first ritual of the day commences with the lady of the household lighting the hearth to prepare a variety of delicious new year delicacies and sweetmeats for the family and relatives. Then the whole family sits together to share their first meal of the new year at the dining table.
Delicacies such as kiribath, coconut sambal, sweets like aggala, kavum,kokis,aluwa along with bananas would be the centrepiece at the table. The feasting will commence after the lighting of the traditional oil lamp.
After sharing their first meal together, children will show their respect to elders by offering sheaves of betel to gain their blessings and in return, elders would gift them money to mark the beginning of the first financial transaction of the year.
Another vital ritual would be anointing oil. Many Sinhalese Buddhists would visit their local temple to receive the anointing of the oil which is performed by the chief priest of the temple. It is believed that anointing oneself from head to toe would purify both mind and body.
Tamils New Year Celebrations
It all starts with household preparations such as whitewashing, scrubbing and cleaning. It is believed that the Goddess Laksmi visits and resides in a clean home and showers her blessings for prosperity. A garland of mango leaves is hung in front of the doorstep to cast off any evil eyes and a beautiful kolam design is drawn at the doorstep for attraction.
At the dawn of the New Year, the entire family and household will be anointed at an auspicious time. Later on, all family members gather together to watch the boiling of a potful of milk. As the first rays of the sun glisten, watching the milk overflow from the rim is a sight to behold.
A traditional pooja ceremony is conducted to express gratitude for the previous year and seek blessings to face the new year with strength and fervour. Once the pooja is over at home, the family visits nearby kovil at an auspicious time.
Delicacies and sweetmeats such as pongal, sambal, vada, athirasam, murukku, payasam and plantains take centrepiece at the dining table during the first meal of the year.
A unique ceremony called Kai visesham takes place where elders of the family offer a small amount of money to young ones wishing them good luck for the new year.
Shopping spirit during Sri Lankan New Year
An aspect that has changed from the bygone to the present is Sri Lankan’s shopping spirit during New Year. Think of it as the boxing day sales but in April.
By the beginning of April, the country is enveloped in Sri Lankan New Year shopping spirit as the crowd of people pour into various shopping venues for last-minute purchases and bargains.
Gift-giving is an important aspect during the Sri Lankan New Year to express love towards their family, relatives and friends. A little bit of sharing has never hurt anybody!
Sri Lankan New Year Through All the Years
In the olden days, villagers would celebrate New Year together as a community. People would start preparing for the New Year from the last week of March. Household and garden were cleaned meticulously. Ladies would make their New Year sweetmeats by hand from the scratch.
Everyone would dress in new clothes and pay a visit to their relatives and neighbours with hands full of sweetmeats and goodies. Both adults and children were more respectful of the traditions and abided by them. Celebrations last for a good 7 -10 days.
As many head to their hometowns to celebrate with their families and friends, the vibrant Colombo tends to get quieter. The beeping car horns, the tuk-tuks and traffic chaos slows down. Colombo starts breathing again.
In Sri Lanka, both April 13th and 14th are declared as public holidays. Since children are given first term holidays in April most adults would take a few days off from work to extend their holiday duration.
SearchMax New Year Celebrations
Here at SearchMax, we have a multicultural diversity which makes New Year celebrations extra special. We understand that everyone celebrates the day in their own different ways but united together as one big family. Our team gets to enjoy the yummiest delicacies ranging from delicious payatham paniyarams Anusuthan brings (thanks to his mom’s amazing culinary skills that has been perfected over years) to appetizing oil cakes & kokis from Tamara to the most-awaited Wattalappam that Aqeelah brings.
The Sri Lankan New Year is a special family holiday that is not merely about celebrations but bringing all the family together. These traditions bind us together and we preserve them for our future generations so we could move forward as a stronger nation.