It is the favourite holiday season of Sri Lankans; Sinhala and Tamil New Year. The festival is celebrated annually at the end of harvesting season, in April. According to Sri Lankan astrology, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year marks the transition of the Sun from the Meena Rashiya (House of Pisces) to the Mesha Rashiya (House of Aries). Anuradha and I celebrated the new year today.
In this blog post, we thought of introducing you to some of the customs followed during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.
Nonagathaya and Dawn of the New Year
The ending of the old year and the beginning of the new year take place when the Sun transits from the Meena Rashiya to the Mesha Rashiya. The halfway point between this transition (Sankranthi) is considered as the dawn of the New Year. This period is called the nonagathaya or the neutral period. People refrain from doing worldly activities (business, studies, etc.) and engage in religious activities during this time period.
This is the time we light fire for the first time since the neutral period. Milk is boiled in a pot an allowed to spill over to symbolise prosperity throughout the new year. Then we cook milk rice (with certain sweetmeats).
Commencement of Work and Transactions
People engage in useful activities, expecting they will perform well throughout the new year; children engage in studies and elders will engage in activities related to their professions. Furthermore, people will exchange money and gifts and children will worship elders with a sheaf of betel leaves. Anuradha and I did not forget to worship our parents and elders during the new year and get their blessings.
Afterwards, it was time to enjoy the food together with our family members.
New Year Treats Table
The main item on the new year table is milk rice, known in Sinhala as Kiri Bath. Moreover, a variety of sweetmeats and rice treats are made before or on the new year day. These are the food items which were on our new year treats table this year.
Kiri Bath: This is the main item made by cooking rice with coconut milk. Often, condiments such as ghee and treacle are added.
Kavum: This is a sweet treat made of rice flour and kittul treacle or jaggery. Sometimes these are called konda kavum (where konda means hair), as the treat resembles a bump on the top referred to as the konda.
Kokis: This crispy treat is made from a batter of rice flour and coconut milk. The batter can be made to taste sweet or savoury as your choice. A kokis mould is coated with this batter and deep-fried till the individual kokis com out of the mould.
Mung Kavum: This is a sweet treat made of mung bean flour and kittul palm sap, coated with a sweet batter similar to kokis batter and then deep-fried.
Athirasa: This is a treat made out of rice flour, the paste is formed into flattened circles and deep-fried.
Cake: It’s plain old vanilla cake. 😉
Sinhala and Tamil New Year season is one of the most joyous times of the year, where everyone gets together to celebrate the dawn of a new year.
Wish you all a happy and prosperous Sinhala and Tamil New Year!