Sinhala New Year Celebrations

Traditional Sinhala New Year Celebrations
Traditional Sinhala New Year Celebrations

Sinhala New Year was my first experience of a traditional celebration in Sri Lanka, but for Shams on the other hand, she had celebrated this from birth. Tamil Sri Lankans, will celebrate Tamil New Year on the same day. Sri Lankans call this day, Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

Praying over the milk rice

Sinhala New Year celebrations are based on auspicious times given by astrologers. The New year starts when the sun moves from Pisces (Meena Rashiya) to Aries (Mesha Rashiya). This marks the start of “Aluth Awurudda” . This is an annual celebration on the 14th April. Everyone enjoys the festivities and begins the new year in a joyous and positive mood.

Sinhala New Year Aluth Awurudda Table

A traditional Sinhalese household celebrating Sinhala New Year would consist of sweet meats and special dishes. Let’s start with ” Kokis”, our favourite food, a deep fried sweet snack made out of rice flour and coconut milk. Asmi is another fabulous sweet you’ll find on the table; this too is a very tasty fried food made out of rice flour , cinnamon leaves and coconut milk. You can also find many more foods such as, konda kevum, mung-kevum, bibikkan (which is a sweet cake) murukku, fish Embul-Thiyal (sour fish curry), vadai, and fruit.

Praying over the stove facing the correct direction during Sinhala New Year
Praying over the stove facing the correct direction

Sinhala and Tamil new year is full of yummy food, traditions, and fun festive games.  On New Years day, there are specific times to cook the food, eat the food and specific colours to wear when cooking and eating. This also may change from year to year based on the auspicious times provided by the astrologers. 

Waiting for the Kiri Bath (milk rice) to boil over in Sinhala New Year
Stove is lit and waiting for the kiri bath to boil over

Prior to new year: 

As the sun exits Meena, you’ll normally take your final bath for the old year. As punya kalaya (inauspicious time)  begins, everything shuts down and families will partake in spiritual activities by visiting temples. 

Dawn of the new year:

Firecrackers and sound of the rabana (one-sided traditional drum) signals the dawn of the new year and families will commence their activities.

Waiting for the milk rice to boil over

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Lighting of the hearth (lipa gini melaweema) : 

Before lighting the hearth, the lady of the house will worship the pot three times. The Stove is then lite by the lady of the house, facing in the correct direction, and the kiri bath (milk rice) is cook in a pot over the lit fire, this signifies prosperity. Astrologers determine the direction to face, which can change from year to year. All members of the family from the youngest to the eldest will witness the milk bubbling from the pot. 

Bev & Shams lighting the Hearth during Sinhala New Year Celebrations
Lighting of the Hearth

Being fed the recently cooked kiri bath

First meal at the Awurudda table:

At the table you will find the many different sweet foods mentioned above along with the recently cooked kiri bath (milk rice). The head of the family will start the meal  by feeding each member of the family a little bit of the ” kiri bath” and the family will then continue the meal by sitting around the table enjoying the delicious food.

Exchanging offerings

Performing rituals and exchanging money:

After the meal, at an auspicious time, the children show respect to their elders by offering sheaves of betel to their elders who then proceed to bless them. After the blessing , the elders in return would give them money and commence the first financial transaction (ganu denu) of the new year. The ganu denu was dont differently in ancient times. The women of the house would drop a new coin wrapped in clean cloth into a well and draw a bucket of water. She would then fill a bottle with that water and keep it for the year. The water would continue to be renewed every Sinhala New Year. 

Taking the food to neighbours

Friendly exchanges of sweets among neighbours: 

It is tradition to exchange the sweet treats and other Sinhala New Year goodies among your neighbours, following your family rituals. Traditionally the plates should be returned empty. Next, families visit their relatives or friends visit friends using this time to forget any arguments or resentments and to strengthen relationships during this season.

This is a great opportunity to get involved in the culture, and we thoroughly enjoyed the celebrations.

After all the celebrations, now it is time to explore the rest of Sri Lanka, with this adventurous 6 day trip going on safari, surfing, and visiting the sacred sites that Sri Lanka have to offer.

Your Say

Have you celebrated Sinhala New Year? How did you feel during the celebrations? Would you like to celebration Sinhala New Year? We would love to hear from you, just leave a comment below.

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12 thoughts on “Sinhala New Year Celebrations

  1. Sinhala New Year sounds so amazing. I love seeing how different religions/cultures do things (which usually focuses around food lol). I love how the kids get coins representing the first transaction of the year. Do they get to spend it on candy or other things that they want to?

    1. I know we really enjoyed getting involved in the culture and religion, and will practice this at home this year, without the family surrounding us sadly. I think the children would love to spend their money from new year on sweets or something that may interest them, but no they will normally put it away into savings (very sensible of them)

  2. The Sinhala New Year sounds like an amazing experience. I enjoy celebrating and taking part in celebrations around the world and will add this to my list to take part in.

  3. I’d love to experience SInhala New year, it sounds wonderful. Sri Lanka is on my bucket list so it seems like this time of year would be great to experience an amazing cultural celebration. I love the idea of having to wear specific colours for different meals and the food you described all sounds delicious!

    1. It was an amazing experience, would love to celebrate it again, I loved that the families come together. Sri Lanka is beautiful, so well worth visiting.

  4. I haven’t heard of the Sinhala New Year celebration, Aluth Awurudda but it sounds like an interesting celebration to participate in. Learning about different cultures and celebrations is a great way for us to have empathy and appreciation for other cultures. I think I’d like to try some of those foods like Kokis. That sounds delightful.

  5. I recently visited Sri Lanka and fell in love with the people and their culture. So glad to read your article on Sinhala new year celebrations, the logic behind and the customs. Would love to experience this in person one day.

    1. Yes, Sri Lanka is a beautiful place and would agree with you, you can easily celebrate this at home doesn’t have to be in Sri Lanka but it would make it all the more special

  6. It was quite interesting to know about the Sinhala New Year and the traditions associated with it. It sounds similar to a few rituals in India. New Years are always special and Sri Lanka also celebrates this with so much love. I would love to witness the Sinhalese New Year some day.

    1. How interesting that some of the rituals are similar to India. Yes I love New Year in Sri Lanka, I love that it brings the family together, it is certainly much better than the way the western world sees the new year in.

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