Christians joined Buddhists and Hindus in traditional Sinhala and Tamil New Year anointing ceremonies held across the country on Saturday. The ceremony involves people returning to their family homes or temples, which are lavishly decorated to receive blessings and be anointed with herbal oil from senior family members or Buddhist monks. The one receiving the blessing is dressed in blue and has to face south as herbal oil made from Bo leaves is applied to the head and oil from Kohomba leaves for the feet. One Christian woman married to a Buddhist went to a 92-year-old village elder to be anointed oil. "It is a good custom and fosters religious harmony among villagers," said Kanthi Muthulatha from Anuradhapura. “It is very important for our children to join other faiths in such celebrations. We are a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country,” said Muthulatha who works as a Sunday school teacher in Colombo archdiocese. Nuwan Rupasinghe, a Catholic who has married a Buddhist. "People, animals and objects are anointed to symbolize the introduction of a sacramental or divine influence, a holy emanation, spirit, power of God and to cure diseases,” said Nuwan Rupasinghe, a Catholic man who is also married to a Buddhist. "We use anointing oil for healing, dedication, as a sign of sanctification, consecration, and divine intervention," said Rupasinghe who studied Christianity in higher education. The ceremony used to be celebrated mainly by Buddhists and Hindus. Now more and more Christians are participating and it is fast becoming a national event. The ceremony fosters certain religious values such as gratitude towards elders, sharing and respect for culture. The children in turn receive blessings from parents. Oil anointing ceremonies also took place at the national Zoo and Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. The state anointing oil ceremony was held at 7.41 a.m. on Saturday at a temple in Matara in the south of the country attended by President Mahinda Rajapakse.