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Sri Lankan New Year

This occurs usually on the 13th & 14th of April, is a non-religious festival celebrated by the whole population. Originally a harvest thanksgiving, it does not begin at midnight on the designated day, because, like many events in Sri Lanka, the precise (‘auspicious’) timings are decided upon astrologically. It is believed New Year commences not when the old one ends, but a few hours later. The interval between the old and the new is called nonagathe or “neutral period”, during which all activities cease. When the New Year commences, fresh activities begin: a fire is lit and new clothes are worn. Then comes the ganu-denu, or “give and take” in which money is exchanged.

The festival culminates when oil is mixed with a herbal paste and a respected elder anoints the head of each family member. Over the festive period traditional games, both indoor and out, such as kotta pora (pillow fighting) and havari hengima (hiding the wig) played in homes and villages brings together families and whole communities. Many shops are closed for up to a week over New Year as people travel en masse with gifts and specially prepared festive food to offer family and friends.


Eid ul Fitr is Allah’s gift for Muslims for fasting in Ramadan. It is an Islamic holiday, marking the end of Ramadan. Muslims celebrate Eid Al Fitr every year on the 1st of Shawwal.