I went to bed at 9,…

I went to bed at 9, slept like a log until 1 a.m., and have been awake ever since. I've now given up and gotten up and made myself some oatmeal. I wonder what time it is in Sri Lanka -- maybe it's appropriate that I'm awake. Happy New Year! (Please imagine me banging a drum. :-)

Sinhala & Tamil New Year Festival

When:13 - 14 Apr 2007 (annual)
Where:Sri Lanka

When the sun moves from Pisces to Aries, the Sinhalese Buddhists and Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka join forces to celebrate Aluth Avurudda - their mutual New Year.

This also coincides with the time when the harvest ends, so the colourful fruit from the trees is collected in bulk to fuel the week-long celebrations. Festivities are prepared well in advance and most of the country grinds to a halt as hundreds travel home to be with their families and stores close down in their wake - it can be impossible to track down the simplest of things just before it all starts.

The rituals begin with the cleaning of the house and lighting of an oil lamp, and women congregate to bash on the raban (drum) to warn others of the incipient change in the year. If you fail to hear this, a storm of firecrackers is bound to hammer the point home.

Families indulge in a variety of rituals which are carefully determined by astrological calculations - from lighting the fire to making the kiri (milk rice) bath, to entering into the first business transaction and eating the first morsels.

Once these are done, the partying really begins as families mingle in the streets, homes are thrown open and children are let out to play. The ubiquitous plantain is dished out alongside celebratory feasts of kaung (small oil cake) and kokis (crisp and light sweetmeat, originally from the Netherlands).

Aluth Avurudda has become an important national holiday for both the cultures of the Sinhalese Buddhists and the Tamil Hindu Sri Lankans, and is unique as such, as it is not celebrated elsewhere in the world. Indeed wealthy Sri Lankans make it an excuse to come home from wherever they are to make it a long holiday season.

Those who can't handle the heat of the pre-monsoon season in the south escape to the cooler hills and indulge in the expensive pastimes of the elite - such as polo, golf, tennis and motor racing.

2 thoughts on “I went to bed at 9,…”

  1. This sounds wonderful; thanks for posting about it.

    In Ireland for years, the defacto New Year was March 24th or thereabouts. Folks would scrub their houses and light the first fires of the year, as well as enter the first business transactions (hiring workers for the farms) and hold large fairs and festivals.

    This was back when folks were more agricultural; I don’t think anyone does this anymore.

  2. March and April make much more sense for the new year – when spring and new life is beginning. January is midwinter – what a silly time for a new year. A testament of hope over reality.

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