Different parts of the world celebrate New Year in a different way, in some countries; the time of celebration also differs. New Year in Sinhalese or Sri Lanka, popularly called Aluth Avurudhu, is observed on the 13th and 14th of April every year.
It is a solar festival that begins as the Sun enters to the zodiac of Aries or Mesha. Interestingly this celebration takes place at the spring and mother Nature showers all her blessings to the Sinhalese during the period, signifying the beginning of the New and the end of the old.
A number of customs and traditional beliefs are associated with the New year celebrations in the country. The Sinhalese are influenced by astrological faiths and perform several religious practices during this time. In villages, several women gather and play drums to announce the advent of the New Year.
The customs begin with Nonagathe that starts few hours before the New Year rolls in and you are supposed to perform the rituals with a pure mind. People visit to temples, donate food and clothes to the poor and pray for a prosperous year ahead. Traditionally, people take the Holy Bath before the sun sets on the last day, with the herbal mixture called “Nanu” replacing the soap. They believe that this purifies their bodies as well as the soul and they are able to welcome the New Year with an auspicious mind.
Many Sinhalese clean their houses before the New year comes just to wash away the evils of the previous year. after completion, the holy Saffron water is sprinkled in the house for purification. “Kolam” or special decorative designs are drawn with white rice flour or coconut for auspicious reasons. Among the other customs people light fires, and prepare the traditional milk rice for family members. Milk is considered to be auspicious for them and brings prosperity if spills over the pot.
The housewives cook traditional meals like hath maluwa or a curry with 7 different flavors. Several sweets are prepared for the entire family. the head of the household prepares the traditional pot with 5 mango leaves and one coconut, popularly known as the “mangalam kumbam”. All the members of the family have lunch together to celebrate the arrival of the New year. they eat the traditional food like small oil cakes called kaung or crispy light sweetmeats called the kokis.
The young members touch the feet of the elders to seek blessings. They also offer betel to the elders to show their gratitude and respect towards them. some local Srilankans play games called “Guddu” with friends and family members as a part of the tradition of bringing good luck. It is considered to be the best time to start off with a new business as well as wedding ceremonies. People also follow the tradition of gifting clothes to the loved ones as a token of love and affection. These customs seem to have glued the people belonging to the Sinhalese community together promoting harmony and brotherhood.