Sinhalese New Year
Sinhalese New Year, generally known as Aluth Avurudda (Sinhala: අලුත් අවුරුද්ද) in Sri Lanka, is a Sri Lankan holiday that celebrates the traditional New Year of the Sinhalese people in Sri Lanka. It is a major anniversary celebrated by not only the Sinhalese people but by most Sri Lankans. The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. The festival has close semblance to the Tamil New year and other South and Southeast Asian New Years. It is a public holiday in Sri Lanka. It is generally celebrated on 13 April or 14 April and traditionally begins at the sighting of the new moon.
According to Sinhalese astrology, New Year begins when the sun moves from Meena Rashiya (the house of Pisces) to Mesha Rashiya (the house of Aries). It also marks the end of the harvest season and of spring. Cultural anthropological history of the ‘Traditional New Year’ which is celebrated in the month of April, goes back to an ancient period in Sri Lankan history. People think that the celebration of New Year is the change of thoughts too. Various beliefs, perhaps those associated with fertility of the harvest, gave birth to, many rituals, customs, and ceremonies connected with the New Year. The advent of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC led to a re-interpretation of the existing New Year activities in the Buddhism light . The majority of the people in the country are Buddhists, and as such, the Buddhistic outlook was predominant in transforming the New Year rites to what they are now.
Cultural rituals begin shortly after the beginning of the Sinhalese New Year with the cleaning of the house and lighting of an oil lamp. In some communities, women congregate to play upon the Raban (type of a drum) to announce the incipient change in the year. All the families as one carries out variety of rituals in exact timings of which are 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. The rituals vary slightly based on the locale. However the core of the celebrations remains the same.
Once the important rituals are done, the partying 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 Kavum (small oil cake) and Kokis (crisp and light sweetmeat, originally from the Netherlands). However, the extent of outdoor activities depends largely on the neighborhood. The suburban communities tend to have such social gatherings than urban or city dwellers. The blossoming of the flowers of the Yak Erabadu is associated with the advent of the Sinhalese New Year.