Pots overflowed, oil spat, splattered and fried and smoke filled our houses. And we overzealous lot are currently in a constant state of overeaten stupor with our pantries and kitchens overflowing with various goodies, prepared specially for the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.
Abundance is the theme of every Sri Lankan New Year in our beautiful island.
According to the Sinhala Calendar, the year begins in April, referred to as “Bak maha” in the Sinhala calendar. The word “Bak” is derived from the Sanskrit word “bhagya” signifying fortune. It is also on this particular month that farmers reap the harvest from their fields and give thanks to the deities and the Triple Gem for the abundance that was bestowed upon them. This is how the theme “abundance” came to be central during the Sri Lankan New Year.
The Sinhala New Year announces the ascension of the sun from Pieces to Aries as this is astrological alignment that harkens the beginning of a new year. It is also remarkable that the Sri Lankan New Year, or Avurudu as we call it, falls on the 13th and 14th of April every year.
The most important ritual as I see of New Year is the boiling of the milk.
It is common to greet each other saying “Kiri ithirewa” during the New Year meaning “Let your pots overflow with milk”. Now milk and overflowing has always alluded to prosperity and good fortune in the Sri Lankan culture ( Much like milk and honey being viewed as symbols of opulence in global culture). However, I am not sure if the saying came first or the ritual because this is exactly what we do at New Year or when initiating something new, like shifting to a New House, etc.
The tradition is presided over by the lady of the household – usually the mother and executed at an auspicious time facing an auspicious direction as advice by astrologers. On a newly assembled hearth, usually in the middle of the living room of the house in a new clay pot bought specially for the purpose, a pot of milk is boiled until the milk overflows. Some use cow’s milk while others prefer using coconut milk. In our household, we had always boiled coconut milk as some believe that cow’s milk is inauspicious for such a sacred and important occasion. At the same time, a milk rice is cooked in the house in a new pot in order to eat at the auspicious time usually designated about an hour later.
There is a designated color to wear for the occasion as well. This year, it had been golden color. The color too is decided based on the astrologers’ advice.
It is rather a marvelous thing this Sri Lankan New Year of ours – The whole country gets together to engage in religious activities, to boil milk, cook, eat, apply oil and engage in various activities at the same time at least one day. The festivity in the air is contagious!
We hope all of you in Sri Lanka and all Sri Lankans celebrating abroad had a wonderful time during the Sinhala & Tamil New Year. Here’s wishing you good food and great company (my company. Teehee) in the New Year!