Whilst we of course celebrate the arrival of the Gregorian calendar New Year on 1st January – any excuse for a party – the big one in Sri Lanka is the Sinhala and Tamil New Year which falls on the 13th or 14th of April each year. Called Aluth Avurudda in Sinhala, it is without doubt the most important holiday of the year and the celebrations last for many days. Most businesses and shops will be closed for a at least a week whilst everyone takes time to visit family, share special New Year food items (including the sweet Kevum pictured above) and wish one and all Subha Aluth Avuruddak Wewa. Imagine a European Christmas and Easter plus a North American Thanksgiving all rolled in to one.
The New Year does not begin at midnight, rather its starting time is determined by a complicated series of astrological observations. To further complicate matters the New Year does not start when the old one ends – there is a period of “Inauspicious time” usually lasting about 12 hours between the two during which no food preparation or work may be done. This year (2021) the old year ended at 8:09pm on the 13th April and the new one began the following morning at 8:57am, both occasions marked by the deafening noise of fireworks.