ScotLanka Network
New Year Celebrations

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On 14th April when the sun moves from the House of Pisces to the House of Aries in the celestial sphere, Sri Lankans begin celebrating their New Year. It marks the end of the harvest season and also coincides with one of 2 instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka.

The ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart from one another, this span is again determined by astrology. This period is, aptly enough, referred to as the nona gathe (neutral period). During this time Sri Lankans are, according to custom, encouraged to refrain from material pursuits, and engage solely in religious activities and traditional games.

Cultural rituals begin shortly after the beginning of the New Year with the cleaning of the house and lighting of an oil lamp. In some communities, women congregate to play upon on the raban (drum) to warn others of the incipient change in the year.

Families indulge in a variety of rituals which are carefully determined by astrological calculations - from lighting the fire to making the kiribath, (milk rice) 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).

Sri Lankan New Year 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 in the same manner elsewhere in the world (some countries do celebrate a similar festival on the same date or a near date).