Your Lazy But Smart Guide To The Sinhalese & Tamil New Year

Sinhalese Tamil New Year - Lazy But Smart Sinhala

Photo Credits: Awesome Father

 

Some of you may already know this and some of you may not:

There is such a thing as the Sinhalese & Tamil New Year! And it’s one of my favorite holidays!

I missed out on it for 13 years when I lived in Monaco, but since 2013 I’ve been fortunate to be in beautiful Sri Lanka to celebrate it!

But before anything, first a big “thank you” to Leticia, a subscriber who joined our little tribe, for her question that gave me the idea for this post.

Now, my objective for this post was two-fold:

  1. Summarize the most important “need-to-know” points of the Sinhala & Tamil New Year (and yes, I’m the one who decided what was important or not. That’s the kind of authority I have around here…); and
  2. Relate it to our main objective, which is learning Sinhala

And the following is what my brain and I came up with…

(And in case you were wondering, in the photo above, that’s the hand gesture we make when wishing someone. Also, I’m wearing the official national attire of Sri Lanka – It’s super-simple but still super-elegant, don’t you think? Makes even people like me look like decent human beings).

 

Structure Of This Post

Sinhalese & Tamil New Year Structure-10

There could be differences…

In everything I’ve explained below, there could be some differences between how the Sinhalese and Tamil people celebrate the new year. It could also differ from region to region. The following is based purely on my own experience having grown up in the heart of Colombo city.

 

Shall we start then?

Alright, I know that around 90% of you just want to know how to wish your Sri-Lankan “someones” in Sinhala. And since I don’t like to keep anyone waiting longer than they need to (sort of the golden rule since I hate being kept waiting myself) I’ve started with that in Section 1.
 

Section 1:

Wishing Someone Happy New Year in Sinhala

1.1 How to say NEW YEAR in Sinhala

New Yeara∙luth   auw∙rudh∙dhȧ 1
      
Sinhalese New Yearsin∙hȧ∙lȧ   a∙luth   auw∙rudh∙dhȧ
      
Sinhalese & Tamil New Yearsin∙hȧ∙lȧ   haa   dhé∙mȧ∙lȧ   a∙luth   auw∙rudh∙dhȧ 2
      

My Little Notes:

1 Word explanations: a∙luth = “new”; auw∙rudh∙dhȧ = “year”

2 Word explanations: haa = “and”; dhé∙mȧ∙lȧ = “Tamil”

1.2 Wishing Someone HAPPY NEW YEAR in Sinhala

“Happy New Year!”su∙bȧ   a∙luth   auw∙rudh∙dhak   vḗ∙wa! 3
      
“Happy New Year to you and your family!”o∙yaa∙tayi   o∙yaa∙gé   pauw∙lȧ∙tayi   su∙bȧ   a∙luth   auw∙rudh∙dhak   vḗ∙wa! 4
      

My Little Notes:

3 Word explanations: su∙bȧ = “happy/prosperous”; auw∙rudh∙dhak = “a year”; a∙luth auw∙rudh∙dhak = “a new year”; vḗ∙wa! = “May it be”

4 Word explanations: o∙yaa = informal “you”; o∙yaa∙tȧ = “to you”; o∙yaa∙gé pauw∙lȧ∙tȧ = “to your family”; o∙yaa∙tayi o∙yaa∙gé pauw∙lȧ∙tayi = “to you and your family”.

Also note: This how you’d wish someone familiar to you (to learn more about informal “you” see Episode 1 of the Video Tutorials)

1.3 Responding to someone who wishes you HAPPY NEW YEAR in Sinhala

“May the same be (for you) too!”é∙sē∙mȧ   vḗ∙wa!      
“May the same be for you and your family!”o∙yaa∙tath   o∙yaa∙gé   pauw∙lȧ∙tath   é∙sē∙mȧ   vḗ∙wa! 5      

My Little Notes:

5 Word explanations: o∙yaa = informal “you”; o∙yaa∙tath = “to you too”; o∙yaa∙gé pauw∙lȧ∙tath = “to your family too”

 

 

SECTION 2:

All You Need To Know About The Sinhalese & Tamil New Year

 

2.1 When is it?

  • Usually falls on the 13th or 14th of April (see update below for this year’s dates & times). The date is based on a specific movement of the sun, from an astrological point of view.
  • Therefore, it doesn’t start at midnight but instead at a time decided by the astrologers.
  • Interestingly, there is also a time gap between the end of the old year and the start of the new year.
  • Although I’m not 100% certain, I also heard that the sun is directly above Sri Lanka during this time. Probably correct, considering how these days, bitching about the heat seems to be the favorite pastime of many a sweaty-foreheaded Sri Lankan (present company included).
  • It’s a public holiday and most people go back to their hometowns to spend it with their families. It is celebrated by most Sri Lankans, not necessarily only the Sinhalese & Tamil people.
  • There are load of “auw∙ru∙dhu” sales that take place in almost every store so it’s busy time for shopping.

 

2.2 Traditional Sinhalese & Tamil New Year Rituals

The following rituals are all done at a predetermined favorable “auspicious” times, determined by astrologers.

  • Lighting a traditional oil lamp
  • Lighting the hearth and boiling milk in a pot
  • Making “milk-rice” (more on this in the next part below)
  • Eating traditional food items at a specific time (usually facing a specific direction – This year it’ll be south)
  • Exchanging token amounts of money or gifts between family members

 

Related Sinhala Words & Phrases:

Auspicious timenæ∙kath   vé∙laa∙vȧ      
Boiling the milkki∙ri   i∙thi∙ree∙mȧ      
Exchanging giftsga∙nu   dhé∙nu      
Hearth / Stoveli∙pȧ      
Lamppa∙ha∙nȧ      
Lighting the lamppa∙ha∙nȧ   path∙thu   ki∙ree∙mȧ      
Milkki∙ri      

 

2.3 Traditional New Year Food

 

Milk Rice

We’ve already mentioned “milk rice” in the previous section. This is rice cooked in coconut milk.

Here’s what it looks like:

 

kiribath - sinhalese tamil new year

Milk Rice (“kiribath”) prepared by my “Mother Dear”
(Click to enlarge)

Milk Riceki∙ri∙bath 6
      

My Little Notes:

6 Word explanations: ki∙ri = “milk”; bath = “rice”

 

“Sweetmeats”

But in addition to that we also make a whole range of “sweetmeats” (as they are called).

These are usually made of spices, jaggery, treacle, coconut, and some of them are fried.

 

rasa kaevili - sinhalese tamil new year

New Year “Sweetmeats” purchased by Awesome Father specifically for this post
(Click to Enlarge)

 

The word for “sweetmeats”:

Sweetmeatsra∙sȧ   kæ∙vi∙li 7
      

My Little Notes:

7 Explanation of words: ra∙sȧ = “tasty”; kæ∙vi∙li = “eats” (noun)

Come “auw∙ru∙dhu” day, it’s quite common for everyone in our neighborhood to visit each other with a platter of sweetmeats like the above. I’ll be waiting impatiently at the gate.

 

List of Some of the Popular “Sweetmeats” (Click image to enlarge):

kaewum - sinhalese tamil new yearkæwum      
mung kaewum - sinhalese tamil new yearmung   kæwum      
kokis - sinhalese tamil new yearko∙kis      
aasmi - sinhalese tamil new yearaas∙mi      
athirasa - sinhalese tamil new yeara∙thi∙ra∙sȧ      
paeni valalu - sinhalese tamil new yearpæ∙ni   va∙lȧ∙lu 8
      

My Little Notes:

8 Word explanations: pæ∙ni = by itself it means “honey” but as an adjective it usually means “sweet”; va∙lȧ∙lu = in this instance it means “hoops” but it can also mean “bangles”

 

2.4 Traditional New Year Festivities & Games

Various Sri Lankan communities, companies, associations, both in Sri Lanka and abroad organize social gatherings during the New Year.

This type of event is called an ‘awu∙ru∙dhu u∙lé∙lȧ’ (or ‘awu∙ru∙dhu uth∙sȧ∙vȧ∙yȧ’) and is for everyone in the family. There are also special games organized (which are called ‘awu∙ru∙dhu sél∙lam’) and here are just some of them:

  1. Climbing the grease pole
  2. Breaking clay pots blindfolded
  3. Bun eating competition
  4. New Year Prince & Princess
  5. Pillow fighting
  6. Tug of War
  7. “Pancha Keliya”
  8. Pushing each other on swings (while singing special verses)
  9. Lighting firecrackers
  10. Playing a special type of drum (while singing special verses)

 

 

Happy Sinhalese & Tamil New Year To Each Of You!

 

Listen folks, I need to say something before ending this post…

I’ve got to know most of you very well. And you’ve repeatedly expressed how much you love my country, Sri Lanka. So, as far as I’m concerned, you’re all honorary Sri Lankans, and therefore this New Year is also yours as much as it is ours.

So celebrate it with your loved ones and remember to wish them in Sinhala.

 

Random fun pic taken between the “posey” ones.
Couldn’t think of a better way to end this post.

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327 Responses to Your Lazy But Smart Guide To The Sinhalese & Tamil New Year

  1. Sarah H April 12, 2014 at 09:10 #

    aa-yu-bo-wan!
    Thank you so much for this. Sounds amazingly good fun (may I have a copy)
    I am due to visit Sri Lanka in 3 months for a 4 week touring / Volunteering venture with a colleague
    We’re being made redundant so thought it would be amazing to do something totally different when we’ve left employment. Leaving my kids behind will be tough but I’m so looking forward to visiting your wonderful country – and being able to learn the lingo (even just a little bit) will certainly make the trip even more special.
    .
    As a result I’d like to know a couple of things…
    How to interact with the children (phrases to use etc) as we’ll be teaching English (or at least attempting to)
    There is a possibility we’ll be staying at someone’s house instead of the volunteer house (we’re older than the rest of the gang on this adventure!) – I’ve read it’s traditional to take a gift with you to present to your host… If so what would you recommend?
    Kind regards. Sarah

    • Dilshan Jayasinha April 12, 2014 at 09:19 #

      Hi Sarah, sorry to hear about you being made redundant but I admire you for what you’ve decided to do with your time! That’s really wonderful and I’d be glad to help you out with your requests.

      Regarding the interaction with kids, I’m the complete non-expert when it comes to them… (I recently greeted a one year old toddler with the question “How’s life?” – true story!). Perhaps it would help me if you could email me all the appropriate phrases you can think of and I’ll translate them for you.

      For a gift, perhaps something for the house? Maybe a type of ornament/souvenir from your country. The more it is linked to your country/culture, the better I think it would be.

      Just now emailed you the PDF. Take care and thanks for the comment.

      • Sarah H April 14, 2014 at 21:02 #

        Love the pdf – thank you
        Are you looking to do an audio version of the poem / verse? – to ensure I get the pronunciation correct

        As for the child thing… good morning children / good afternoon… if you have any games / songs that are popular, or even translated ‘english’ versions of popular nursery rhymes etc would be helpful…

        Cheers

  2. Jessica Ford April 12, 2014 at 09:15 #

    Hi, Dilshan!

    I’d love a copy of your games PDF, especially because my sinhalese fiancé’s birthday is on the 14th–so maybe we’ll try to do one of the games with my family :).

    Thank you!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha April 12, 2014 at 09:23 #

      Hi Jessica, wow, his birthday is on the 14th? His family must love that since it’s considered a special/auspicious day.

      I’ve just sent you the PDF. 10 games to choose from. Let me know which one you guys decide on :)

  3. Thomas April 12, 2014 at 09:16 #

    Hi Dilshan,
    that’s a great idea – thanks’s a lot for this introduction. Only a few minutes ago I’ve send
    out my greetings to my Sri Lankan friends in english, but now I can do it again in the sri lankan way of doing it :-).
    Enjoy your celebrations and all the best for you – I will be back in Sri Lanka in july and I’m really curious how much my learnings in sinhala will surprise my friends.
    Take care and greetings from Germany,
    Thomas

    • Dilshan Jayasinha April 12, 2014 at 09:29 #

      Argh… I was one day too late for you. Anyway, like you said, I think you can still follow up your wishes in Sinhala (and throw in some of new things you learned about the traditions). That ought to surprise them quite a bit!

      I’m sure we’ll speak again before your trip in July. Plenty of time for you to learn more Sinhala.

      All the best and thanks again for the kind wishes.

  4. Rachel Louis April 12, 2014 at 09:21 #

    Hey Dilshan,
    Good job :)

  5. Anne April 12, 2014 at 09:51 #

    Hi Dilshan

    Every time I decide to give up learning Sinhala one of your blogs arrives and gives me the encouragement to carry on. Would love to receive the games PDF.

    Subȧh aluth auwrudhdhak vḗwa!

    Anne

    • Dilshan Jayasinha April 12, 2014 at 10:06 #

      Haha, what timing!

      Thanks for the wishes, Anne.

      Check your inbox in a couple of minutes.

      Take care.

  6. Annie (Wasana) April 12, 2014 at 10:33 #

    Hi Dilshan,

    Please may I have your pdf of games. Thank you so much! Your work is great! My Sinhala name is in brackets as nobody could pronounce it! I was brought up in the UK without the language (sad). I am now living and working in New Zealand. I actually met another Sri Lankan lady today! Yay! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! THE PHOTOS ARE FAB!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha April 12, 2014 at 10:45 #

      Hi Annie (a.k.a. Wasana) :)

      I used to have a similar issue with my name “Dilshan” (only 2 syllables, mind you) when living in Europe and many would say “That’s a difficult name”. I later found a solution though. Whenever someone would say it’s difficult I’d look surprised and say “Really? You’re the first person to say that”. Needless to say, they ‘miraculously’ never forgot my name after that, haha.

      Thanks for the positive feedback on this post. I quite enjoyed taking the photos myself. Somewhere in me there’s a food photographer wanting to get out…

      I just now sent you the PDF. Hope you enjoy it. Take care.

    • Kay April 13, 2014 at 21:50 #

      Hi Annie (Wasana) Where abouts in NZ are you? I am married to a Sri Lankan, and we live in Whangaparaoa, just north of Auckland. Love to meet you if you are in the area. I also have family in Hamilton (but kiwis, not Sri Lankans)

  7. Laura April 12, 2014 at 10:58 #

    Hi Dilshan! First of all: congrats on the T20 (pretend I linked “We are the champions”: it will sound a lot more epic). Secondly: nice sarong! (It’s a sarong, right?). And now …

    Happy new year to you too! Hope you’re having fun with the preparations for the celebrations (those sweets look absolutely mouthwatering btw).
    Just a little something: the first time I tried using a rice cooker, the rice turned out all sticky and wet (on my behalf I can say that, in Italy, we do not use rice cookers at all …) and my boyfriend said something like: “I didn’t knew we were having kiri bath today”, so I knew about that particular dish (which, I think, it’s eaten with luny miris right?).

    There’s no need to say I’d really like to have the supplement …
    Great job, take care!
    Laura

    • Dilshan Jayasinha April 12, 2014 at 11:24 #

      Hey Laura, great to hear from you again.

      Thanks, yes, we’ve been celebrating the cricket since last Sunday. Maybe it’s my imagination but everyone seems to be walking a little more upright than usual these days :)

      Let me tell you, those sweets didn’t last that long after the photo! My parents and I ate almost all of them within minutes. And the sweets has been made just hours before so they were “fresh fresh”. Need to get more. And then need to jump straight onto the treadmill!

      That’s funny about the kiribath. Yes, it’s eaten with lunu miris. Or it can be eaten with sugar. But I have it both at the same time and perhaps even add some chicken curry. I don’t think I’m the only one who does that though (hope not or I just outed myself as a complete weirdo!).

      You’ve been such a loyal subscriber that I most likely would’ve sent you the supplement even if you didn’t specifically ask for it :) I’m sending it now.

      Take care Laura and thanks again.

      PS: For me the rule I follow with the rice cooker is “for 1 cup of rice, add 1.5 cups of water”. Worked every time, even for larger amounts.

    • Dilshan Jayasinha April 12, 2014 at 11:44 #

      And yes, it’s a sarong. (in Sinhala, that would be “sa∙rȧ∙mȧ”). Got the whole outfit stitched specifically for this post, not kidding. What dedication, eh? :) Bye for now.

      • Abhay Chilakamarri April 12, 2015 at 15:42 #

        Hey Dilshan! How are you?

        Your blog has honestly helped me a lot in my attempt to learn Sinhala, and to continue learning more can I get that PDF?

        I will also interestingly enough be doing some type of celebrations on the new year as well because my brother’s birthday is on the same day!

        p.s: sorry about Sri Lanka not making it far in the World Cup

        • Dilshan Jayasinha April 13, 2015 at 04:48 #

          Hi Abhay, glad to know that my blog has been helpful. Thanks for sharing that with me.

          Will send you the PDF now. Oh, and do wish your brother an advanced “happy birthday” :)

  8. Sarah April 12, 2014 at 11:21 #

    Hi Dilshan – honestly, I originally signed up for the PDF of useful phrases etc (not a huge fan of blogs!). However, yours has changed my life! I love reading it and you’ve helped my Sinhala no end! My Sri Lankan friends are always impressed… and I obviously take all the credit! ;-)
    Would love a copy of the games PDF when you get chance.
    Thanks as always! :-)
    Sarah

    • Dilshan Jayasinha April 12, 2014 at 11:34 #

      Hi Sarah,

      I know what you mean about blogs in general. I try to make mine a little more interactive, fun, and just simple, really. But I never thought I’d hear someone say that it changed their life! :) I’m flattered.

      “My Sri Lankan friends are always impressed”. That’s music to my ears! Well done. Oh yeah, I wouldn’t mention my secret source of a language either :) I’d just keep my friends looking dumbfounded for as long as I can.

      Thanks again for your comment…Regarding the PDF I’m hitting send in 3… 2 …1…

  9. samma samadhi bhikkhuni April 12, 2014 at 11:30 #

    Living in a temple here in Sri Lanka I don’t think I’ll have t
    the chance to play any of the games :-(

    but I’d still like to know for interest’s sake. So, yes,
    please could you send me a copy of the PDF too…..

    Thank-you, and happy Sinhala new year to you!!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha April 12, 2014 at 11:40 #

      Hello,

      Of course, I’d be happy to send you the PDF (regardless of whether one participates in it or not) :). You should receive shortly.

      I’m sure in the community that your temple belongs to, there must be such social events organized. I hope you will get the opportunity to witness it.

      All the very best to you and thank you for the kind wishes.

  10. කොරින් April 12, 2014 at 12:42 #

    Good morning Dilshan,

    Happy New Year in advance, thank you very much for this post. I’d love to have the documents.

    I’ve been lucky enough to be in Sri Lanka many times during New Year… I’d be standing right nex to you at the gate and fight with you over the sweetmeats.

    Bonne fin de semaine et bonne année.

    කොරින්

    • Dilshan Jayasinha April 12, 2014 at 13:02 #

      Merci Corrine!

      99% of the year, I believe I’m a gallant gentlemen. But on awurudhu day, I won’t let anyone get in the way of my sweets. So, challenge accepted; See you at the gate! :)

      I’m sending you the PDF now. Merci encore pour les voeux. A bientôt Corrine.

  11. Sarah April 12, 2014 at 12:49 #

    Hi dilshan! Love all the posts and videos. My hubby is using them to teach our kids and I a bit of Sinhala (he’s Sri Lankan). Pretty excited about this one – we were in Sri Lanka last year for the new year and got to be part of all the celebrations. Lookin forward to receiving the PDF of the games. Thanks again for this site!

    • Dilshan Jayasinha April 12, 2014 at 13:06 #

      Hi Sarah, thanks for the lovely comment. Always makes me happy when I hear that my material is being used to teach kids. Makes Uncle Dilshan feel very proud of his work.

      Oh cool, so since you’ve seen the celebrations most of what I’ve written must sound familiar to you.

      PDF is on the way. Reaching there soon.

      Take care and thanks again for the comment.

  12. Mahak April 12, 2014 at 12:51 #

    Hello Dilshan,

    Hope you are doing well? and having fun in Sri Lanka
    Happy New Year to you. :)
    I am gonna try finding some of the sweets in UK they all look tasty
    Could you please send me the PDF i would love to learn more about the new year.

    Also I feel something is wrong with the post; or maybe its just my computer but when I press of the audio file of the pronunciation for some reason it doesn’t play.

    But anyway I really appreciate you writing down information about Sri Lanka :) It really does help me learn

    Thank you

    • Dilshan Jayasinha April 12, 2014 at 13:15 #

      Hi Mahak,

      Thank you for the wishes and your appreciative words. And yes indeed, I’m doing well and absolutely having fun in Sri Lanka. Hope things are good with you too?

      I’m sure there’ll be a Sri Lankan store in the UK that’s selling these sweets right now. It might be more expensive than over here, but still might be worth it. I remember that during my time in Europe I would pay a lot of money for something Sri Lankan that you’d get for real cheap over here. Helped ease the homesickness :)

      I just now re-tested this post using Mozzila Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari, and the audio works perfectly on all of them. Which browser are you using?

      In the meantime, I’ll send you the PDF.

  13. Samantha Green April 12, 2014 at 13:15 #

    Subȧh aluth auwrudhdhak vḗwa! Dilshan

    Loved the blog and the photos , Its my 2nd New Year here as a resident but last year I had only just arrived on the 11th so it was a bit of a blur. I am most looking forward to the kiribath & lunu miris and least looking forward to the firecrackers

    Would love the games PDF please

    Thanks

    Sam