Monday, April 15, 2013

Valuing traditions... 2013 Sri Lankan New Year

I wonder how many families around the island still celebrate the Sri Lankan New Year in the traditional way.

It's ironic that the Sri Lankan President's 2013 New Year Message to the country encouraged "all (to) follow age old new year customs and traditions and bestow out treasured heritage to the future generation". He emphasized that through valuing the traditions, the nation will stabilize and safeguard the island as a free and independent country.

In my case, I've been fortunate to have wonderful "family" friends (or friends who are like family) who invite me over to their homes every year (without fail) to join in their traditional celebrations.

This year I did some "spring cleaning" around the house. I also bought new clothes to wear on New Year's Day, which probably comes as no surprise to the hordes of locals doing much the same. I guess there is something nice about wearing clothes you've never worn before on the first day of the new year. I have to admit though, it was damn difficult finding clothes in the lucky colour of copper (red and yellow), which I wore to take the meal!!!

My family friends usually brief me on the auspicious times and lucky colors that are astrologically calculated. For this year, the following was released:

Dawn of New Year (Nekath Udawa): 14th April 2013 at 01:29 AM

Sacred Period for the New Year (Punya Kalaya): 13th April at 07:05 p.m and ends at  14th April at 07:53 a.m.

There are two distinct parts to the sacred period. The first part of the Punyakala is for religious and spiritual activities and the second part is for traditional customary activities like meal preparation, transactions, commencing work, and taking meals.

Other auspicious times:

Preparing Meals (Ahara Peseema): April 14th at 04:06 a.m
Auspicious direction is South
Auspicious cloth Blue Colour
Prepare a "Kiri Bath" from red rice mixed with ghee, jaggery and sesame seeds

Starting Work, Transactions and Taking Meals (Aahara Anubhavaya, Weda Alleema and Ganudenu Kireema): April 14th at 7:05 a.m
Auspicious direction South
Auspicious cloth Copper Colour (red and yellow mix).
Apparently it's customary to launch straight into work with firm resolutions for prosperity and wellbeing to kick off the new year

Applying Oil (Hisa thel Gaama): April 15th at 06:41 a.m
Auspicious direction East
Auspicious cloth White Colour
Dimbul Leaves for the head and Ambul leaves for the feet

Going to work (normal duties): April 17th at 07:42 a.m
Auspicious direction South
Auspicious cloth Light green Colour
Depart for work after eating kiribath mixed with jaggery

I celebrated New Year's Day starting with a rude wake up call from firecrackers going off on my street in the early hours of the morning. The spattering of firecrackers was difficult to make me go back to proper sleep. At around 6.30am I headed over to my "family" friend's home to join their early celebrations. The oil lamps were already lit at the house and the dining table had been prepared with kiribath, curries, sambals, bananas, kavum, kokis and other sweets all laid out. A veritable feast. However, we waited till the auspicious time of 7.05am to eat!

Following the meal, we "transacted" or exchange some money wrapped within a betel leaf. I find the custom quite lovely and to me, there is a real sense of exchange and good wishes. There was a real feeling of honoring parents and the elderly in the family. Something that isn't so evident in other cultures these days.

There isn't so much partying in the streets, but there was a constant stream of visitors to the house bearing gifts. Visitors were offered food, sweets and drinks and gifts of food or sometimes other things are exchanged. There's a strong sense of community for those that participate in this. People seem happy to connect and wish each other well for the new year.

I have other friends who leave Colombo around this time making the most of the opportunity to take holidays. They're less likely to follow the traditions and customs, and hole up at hotels enjoying food and drink.

For me there has been a general sense of gentleness and quietness (with the exception of the firecrackers) around Colombo. All the shops are closed after the frenzied activity leading up to the new year (even the small kades). Admittedly, I'm loving it. For once a year, the rat race, the hustle-and-bustle takes a back seat.

*~Suba aluth avuruddak wewa~*

Good wishes to all for the New Year!

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