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Do we know the real meaning of the New Year?

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It’s the time of seasonal offers and sales, and stores are packed to the brim with people. People await the koel’s arrival and the fragrance of sweetmeats fills the air. While litha are carefully read and followed, there are also the New Year festivals (Avurudu uthsava) that are organized in towns, schools, institutions and companies.

However, is the meaning or the purpose of the New Year celebrations being forgotten by people? Is the youth of our country unaware of the importance of the rituals and traditions and is Avurudu, for them, about the various games and exchange of gifts?

If you look at most newspaper and magazine Avurudu supplements, there will be pictures of a reddahatta-clad female with her navel exposed. In a country where modesty of females is demanded, it is surprising that what could be considered the most important festival of the Sinhalese, encourages clothing that can’t be considered modest by society’s standards. Would people feel the same way if magazines and newspapers carry pictures of a female in a naval-exposing tshirt or shirt? Wouldn’t questions be raised about the modesty of females and also of the shame brought to our culture?

There is also the question of Avurudu being commercialized. Do the sales and offers depict the true meaning of Avurudu? Is the New Year about how much money you can spend?

There is also the question of Avurudu celebrations being compulsory for Sinhalese and Tamils. What if an individual or family does not want to celebrate the New Year in the traditional sense? Is it wrong that butter cake and marshmallows have found their way to the kevili table?

People are often asked if they celebrate the New Year, and if they reply that they don’t, they would be the victim of a lecture on how people these days don’t value our rich culture. However, does one’s ethnicity, which they are born in to, make it compulsory to take part in a celebration they do not want to?

the New Year celebrations depend on auspicious times. Avurudu is celebrated when the sun moves from Meena to Mesha. However, we all know the sun doesn’t travel, and many do not decide when to do what by times that are said to be auspicious. With such beliefs, or lack of beliefs, does it make sense to take part in a celebration that requires paying attention to auspicious times and the sun’s travels?

We often insult and criticize people because they don’t follow tradition. Society frowns upon such behavior. However, isn’t it also important to do something or follow a tradition only with knowledge as to why such traditions or rituals are followed? People worry about the distortion of Sri Lankan culture, however, is there any use in having an entire country that celebrates a New Year together when many are ignorant of the history, value and meaning of the celebration? History, culture and traditions are important, and we cannot criticize them, but we cannot and shouldn’t expect everyone to follow them either.

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