Sinhala New Year – A holiday like no other

Sinhala New Year – A holiday like no other (April 2015)

We are known for our holidays, and we have many of those – but among the most enjoyed is perhaps the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, because it is the time of the year when the entire country switches to a festive mode. The weather is not very encouraging, in fact it is just about the sunniest month; but there is enough and more to compensate for the tough sun light. There is so much to look forward to – food, gifts, family time, visits to and from your relatives. The excitement is contagious even if you are not a Sinhalese or a Tamil, and no one is left out of the festivities of the season. It is also a time when you can see how big hearts people have, and how well they are capable of letting bygones be bygones and starting a new year with fresh thoughts and fresh hopes. Nature itself adjusts for the festivities, with the Cuckoo bird’s tunes reminding all of us when the New Year is around the corder.

While the preparation for the new year in the days leading to it is fun in itself, what with the shopping and gift-purchasing, the day of the new year is a day of its own, with one of a kind games, crackers, good food, new clothes and new hopes. In many ways the New Year is a manifestation of Sri Lanka’s own identity and personality, of our ability to start fresh, forget the bad memories and create new memories, cherish life’s little pleasures, and live in the moment.  For a small country like ours to celebrate its own New Year speaks so much of its individuality. To light the hearth at the same time, cook milk rice across every house, and eat at the same time across the country – I doubt if there is a tradition to match this uniquely Sri Lankan activity.

Although smartphones, social media and superior technology has to some extent taken away the authenticity of the festival, it really has not taken away the essence of the season. Just as much fun as it is, there is a deeper meaning that runs underneath the smiles and joys of the month – the value of relationships, the nobility to forgive and forget old enmities, taking time off one’s busy schedules to go see family and friends – these are values that the New Year rejuvenates every year – a gift that is passed on to the younger generation, a gift that makes us Sri Lankan.

Funnily, the abundance of sweets can be over-whelming, being coaxed into drinking yet another cup of tea with a sugary sweet can be perhaps a bit more than you could take, and having to politely turn down a lovingly forceful invitationfor a second helping of food can be a bit of a bother – but if you could see the Sri Lankan hospitality veiled in these gestures of the season, you could have a blast at the Sinhala and Tamil New Year!

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