Asian Heritage Month Spotlight: Sri Lankan New Year

To wrap up Asian Heritage Month, we spoke to members of Queen Mary’s Sri Lankan Society during their annual Sri Lankan New Year Celebration at Laird Hall.

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To wrap up Asian Heritage Month, we spoke to members of Queen Mary’s Sri Lankan Society during their annual Sri Lankan New Year Celebration at Laird Hall. Sri Lankan New Year generally falls on the 13th or 14th of April every year. It is a significant time for Sri Lankans both here in the UK and abroad. Check out what students had to say about their highlights from the event and their favourite traditions!

What is Sri Lankan New Year and why do Sri Lankans celebrate it? 

“The Sri Lankan New Year is celebrated by the Sinhala and Tamil people of Sri Lanka. It signifies the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the New Year when the Sun transitions from Meena Rashi (Pisces) to the Mesha Rashi (Aries) in the astrological chart.  

The ‘Avurudu’ or ‘Puthandu’ week is packed with a lot of festivities. We wear new clothes, make customary food, perform rituals at auspicious times and most importantly play a lot of fun traditional games with family and friends.   

Even though the New Year falls during term time and most of us don't get to go back to Sri Lanka to celebrate with our families, we come together as a part of the Sri Lankan Society at Queen Mary where we still get to celebrate our heritage and culture.” 

Madara, Final Year Law Student

"This celebration is a significant cultural event for Sri Lankans and it’s a time for families & communities to come together to engage in various rituals and festivals. To bring a sense of home to London, we held a traditional games night along with KCL and UCL which brought together a large Sri Lankan student community. It’s a special time of the year to promote unity and harmony amongst us all. I’m particularly looking forward for the large array of Sri Lankan foods as we’ll be able to get a taste of home during this period of cultural festivities.” 

Tes, President of the Sri Lankan Society

Nesha & Pavi 

“Sri Lankan New Year is a time for joyous reunions, reviving cherished traditions with loved ones, and indulging in delicious treats like kiribath (milk rice) that mark the start of a prosperous New Year. I love the vibrant colours of the traditional clothing and the multiple traditional games that unites all friends and families! My favourite game would have to be placing the eye on the elephant blindfolded! This holiday celebrates both Sinhalese and Tamil traditions, and this holds a very special place in my heart as I am part Sinhalese and part Tamil! A lot of Sri Lankans say they identify as either “Sri Lankan Sinhalese” or “Sri Lankan Tamil”, but for me, I simply just say I am Sri Lankan! I love my Sri Lankan heritage as it is a blend of Tamil and Sinhalese cultures, and being Sri Lankan to me is embracing both rich traditions” 

Nesha, Treasurer 

“As a Sri Lankan Tamil, I have only experienced the Sri Lankan New Year celebrated according to Tamil traditions. Experiencing the beautiful Singhalese culture and being welcomed and educated by the warm and friendly Sri Lankan society committee was truly heartwarming. While also celebrating with a mix of Sinhalese and Tamil music which was a beautiful fusion of both styles of music and culture. Wearing a sarong and trying the traditional food was a great bonding experience which enabled me to learn more about the traditions of Sinhalese people. Seeing the differences and similarities of both cultures it is so clear that the similarities outweigh our differences. We share our love for our delectable food and lively games which are undeniable strong assets to Sri Lankans. I loved the Sri Lankan New Year event and would love to see more of their celebrations.”  

Pavi, Second Year Neuroscience

Saree Draping Competition 

“The gathering of Sri Lankan societies from various parts of London during our Sri Lankan Games Night reflects our strong dedication to preserving our tradition and culture, regardless of our respective universities. We aim to create an inclusive environment where people from all backgrounds can join in, bringing the warmth of Sri Lankan hospitality to the UK, showcasing the inclusivity of our culture by a new generation of youth.  

One of my highlights of our New Year celebration was our fun Saree Draping competition, where teams from different universities bonded over crafting traditional saree dresses using tissue rolls. Through tasty food, enjoyable games, and traditional clothing, our event embraced our heritage and culture, bringing together our vibrant youth community for a memorable evening.”  

Dhanuka, Events Officer  

New Year After Party 

“Sri Lankan New Year celebrations are often marked in our calendars at least 3 months beforehand and preparation for the event starts sometimes even earlier, rare for Sri Lankans who are seldom early to anything! But to celebrate the end of harvest season, Sri Lankans go all out with traditional dances and performances with our traditional drum -rabana,  to getting the whole family involved in a variety of games. Some crowd favourites include pinning the tail on the elephant, banis (Sri Lankan sweet bread roll) eating competition, lime and spoon race and my personal favourite, smash the kana mutti (a traditional Sri Lankans version of piñata games). 

What I really love most about the New Year celebrations is how welcoming the atmosphere is, with something to do and get involved with for everyone which can be seen with even people from other backgrounds that come to such New Year events!” 

Chithu, Final Year Accounting & Finance 

 

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