Sinhala and Tamil New Year is called Sinhala Avurudu despite being celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists alike. It marks the completion of the solar circuit and has to be astrologically determined. So the Sinhala Avurudu may begin somewhere between 13 and 15 April, depending on the sages.
There is an astrological conclusion to the old year and the few hours beyond the new are the neutral period which is reserved for religious activity, regardless of the religion one might practise.
The New Year customs and the rituals are carried out between members of one’s family, business associates, local tradesmen and even beggars. New clothes are worn, horoscopes are foretold, money is given and special foods are made, served and offered to the gods.
The Avuruddha is heralded by the constant lighting of fire crackers and the unmistakable call of the koel bird, popularly known as the koha which coos only once a year-at this time. Pay some attention to the multitude of sweet aromas flowing from country kitchens, which get crowded with clattering damsels preparing an assortment of coconut oil-based sweetmeats, which are high on the traditional holiday menu.
The day prior to the Sinhala and Tamil New year is one of anticipation. City bus and train stations are crowded with people in a hurry to get to their homes. Most people return to their ancestral homes, obviously with a longing to celebrate the holidays in much the same way they did as children. Cooking is completed, the hearth cleaned, fires extinguished, with fresh pots and pans now awaiting the preparation of the first meal of the new year. The ensuing period, astrologically prescribed is a time for complete relaxation. All activities are suspended and a lull ensues, as a nation waits for the dawning of the new year.
The new year approaches with a pre-determined time for pre -paring the ceremonial first meal. Dressed in the year’s lucky colour, facing the auspicious, as the thunder of fire crackers, as housewives prepare a dish of Kiribath made from the first batch of the year’s harvest of rice. Kiribath or milk rice , is Sri Lanka’s quintessential festive food; an unsweetened rice pudding cooked in cream of coconut and placed reverently at the head of the table, right benith an equally revered coconut oil lamp.
The whole family will sit for the first meal, soon after transacting some business, referred to traditionally as ganudenu, or the act of receiving and giving. The time now is at its most auspicious, so it is believed that whatever is initiated at this time will undoubtedly yield fruits. Frames will plant a tree, students will read a book, etc.The clock-watching is now over. The next day or two will mark the most joyous period of the year; playing, eating, drinking, merry making and visiting relatives and loved ones.
there will be very few shops and restaurants open during this time, with the whole country seeped in celebration. The fun and frolic will continue till it is time for anointing with herbal oil, the auspicious time which falls roughly about three days after the Avuruddha. Hear, an adult member of the family will prepare a very special herbal oil and anoint family members, with blessings for a wonderful year to come. with it, Avurudhu comes to an end and Sri Lanka gets back to its normal pace of life.