If you are planning your Sri Lanka holidays, mid-April is a good data to include in your visit time. This is when the Sinhala and Tamil New Year is celebrated and the country takes time off to catch a breath. This significant festival is the time when the locals do the shopping, prepare traditional sweets and the whole Island takes on a joyous mood. Celebrating New Year in Sri Lanka is one of the once-in-a-lifetime things to do, if you have some time and money available.
The preparations are an indispensable part of this festival and are done even weeks before the holiday. During this time the locals are trying to do everything to look fresh and clean for the celebrations. They buy new clothes, paint their homes and clean the kitchens and make the setting tidy. A final bath is also taken before the New Year starts. What comes to work related activities, they are substituted with spiritual ones. The rhythm of traditional drums signals the new beginning and rituals start. The ladies light the hearth and boil a pot of milk, which is to bring prosperity to their family and all the family members gather around to witness this ritual. Right after the traditional New Year delicacies are put on the table and are shared by the family members, the oil lamp is lit and the celebration begins.
There is a certain auspicious time for every ritual. The children offer sheaves of betel leaves to their elders thus showing respect and being blessed. After this the so-called first financial transactions are done when the elders give money to the children. A coin wrapped in a cloth is thrown into the well, after this the lady of the house fills a bottle with the water of that well and takes it home to keep until the following year.
Another tradition connected with Sinhala New Year is the visit to all relatives and neighbours with plates full of sweets. Some of the rituals are conducted either at homes or in temples, for example anointing the holy oil on heads, which is believed to purify the devotee. The foreigners, who don’t think all these are right for them, can still witness the traditional games and joyous activities which follow the rituals.
In Tamil Households
The cleaning and getting rid of old items is the start of the preparations for the New Year in Sri Lanka. It’s believed that the clean houses are only visited by the Goddess Lakshmi, who blesses the family. Garlands of Mango leaves are hung above the doorstep and signal the beginning of the festivals. The first ritual is done at the dawn of the New Year, which is, by the way considered an auspicious time recommended by astrologers. At this very time the collecting of the water with a mix of herbal leaves is done for the purpose of being purified. Later on, people dress in new clothes and gather around the boiling milk in front of the house to exchange blessings and congratulation.
Another interesting ceremony is putting a pot with coconut and mango leaves and other fruits in the prayer room as an offering to the gods to ask blessings for the New Year. At a specific time of the day families visit temples for spiritual activities.
The final part of the celebration is the games promoting friendship amidst neighbours accompanied by New Year songs and dances, which attract crowds of locals and visitors every year.