Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Christians join Sinhala and Tamil celebrations

New Year festivities a time for the country's various religious communities to celebrate brotherhood

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Updated: April 15, 2021 03:10 PM GMT

A girl holds sparklers as the Sinhala and Tamil communities celebrate New Year in Colombo on April 14. (Photo: AFP)

Ayoma Arundhi Silva, a Christian, joined her Buddhist family to celebrate Sinhala and Tamil New Year — a time when people visit their loved ones.

My husband is a Buddhist and we follow all the customs of the festival with my extended family. I have been doing this for 10 years since we got married, said Silva, a Sunday school teacher from Anuradhapura.

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Anuradhapura is considered the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and has a vast network of ancient Buddhist temples, monasteries and places of worship.

Sri Lankan Christians take part in the Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations along with Buddhists and Hindus to enhance brotherhood, peace and harmony.

People like diversity and nobody wants to work and live monotonously. New Year is very important for that diversity. We fought for 30 years. Sinhala and Hindu New Year is a time when these two groups can come together, said Silva, referring to three decades of civil war which killed more than 100,000 Sri Lankans.

This festival promotes social values and creates peace among Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims, she said.

We need to teach our children to work with different religious and ethnic groups

Silva said her family has attended several events but there are more rituals to attend until next Monday.

By participating in the events, we get closer to other religions and races and work together. We need to teach our children to work with different religious and ethnic groups, she said.

Sinhala and Hindu New Year, held from April 13-19, begins with the cleaning of houses and lighting of oil lamps, while other events and rituals are marked by auspicious moments which are based on astrological calculations.

New Year begins when the sun moves from Meena Rashiya (the house of Pisces) to Mesha Rashiya (the house of Aries). The last day of the passing year is April 13. It is a major anniversary celebration and public holiday in the country. It also marks the start of the harvest season.

All family members arrange a table with special dishes made for the New Year and relatives get together and take part in rituals at auspicious times. Many festivals are held in villages and children take part in the various games.

At the dawn of the New Year, new clothes are prepared, new rice is cooked and almost everyone visits their relatives and elders, said Silva.

Nilani Fernando, a Catholic teacher from Wennappuwa, also prepares her house for the New Year.

She said a special New Year ritual is the anointing of the head with herbal oil. The temple monk or head of the village performs the ritual.

Father Roshan Fernando, parish priest of St. Anthony's Church in Weliweriya, said that as soon as Sunday Mass on April 11 was over, everyone who attended the Mass was invited to organize a Sinhala New Year festival on the church premises.

We organize the event for children in accordance with all quarantine regulations. Sunday school teachers and others should organize the event with the aim of promoting coexistence and unity among children, said Father Fernando.

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