A Glimpse into the Customs of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year
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Exploring the Rich History of Sinhala and Tamil New Year Celebrations

Apr 15, 2024

Known for its ancient heritage and multicultural backdrop, Sri Lanka celebrates many different traditional and religious festivals throughout the year. The most significant of these is the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, which falls in April. This holiday is an important date on the Sinhalese and Tamil calendars, as it originally marked the end of the harvest season in ancient times. The Sri Lankan new year also promotes cultural harmony by bringing together people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. During this time, families celebrate long-held cultural traditions, and welcome a new year filled with prosperity and unity.

Let’s take a closer look at the new year traditions in Sri Lanka that are observed during the April new year, as well as how they are celebrated in different parts of the country.

New Year Traditions and Customs

The Sinhala and Tamil New Year in Sri Lanka is held from April 13-14. Families gather together with loved ones to follow historic traditions and new year rituals in Sri Lanka. The most common customs include observing auspicious times to carry out household duties and have meals. Boiling milk on the hearth to signify abundance is another important ritual. Many new year games in Sri Lanka are held, including tug of war (kamba addema), breaking pots (kana mutti) and pillow fights (kotta pora). Traditional songs are sung to the beat of the rabana, a large traditional drum. In another popular activity, young men and women dress in colourful traditional costumes, to see who will be crowned Avurudu Kumari (princess) and Kumaraya (prince).

Celebrations in Colombo

The capital, Colombo, is decked out in splendour during the new year, and people rush to stores to buy new clothing, a popular tradition. Families also prepare traditional sweetmeats to adorn the table and share with loved ones. These include delicacies like kevum (oil cakes), kokis (rosette cookies), and aluwa (a sweet made from roasted rice flour). One of the best-loved meals is kiribath (milk rice), a rice dish cooked with coconut milk and served with sides like jaggery and lunu miris (a chilli based sambol). One of the most common new year customs in Sri Lanka is to light an oil lamp to symbolise the dawn of the new year, and visit temples to pray for blessings and good fortune in the year to come.

Celebrations in Kandy

Known as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy is a must-visit destination during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. The city puts on vibrant processions, where traditional music and dance performances take place. During this time, many individuals visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic to pay homage and seek blessings. Traditional drummers and dancers perform cultural shows in Kandy, drawing in large crowds.

Celebrations in Jaffna

In Jaffna, situated in the north, New Year celebrations are slightly different due to the customs of the ethnic Tamil majority. Most Tamil homes are decorated with beautiful kolam designs made from rice flour dyed in vibrant hues. Just like in other cities, firecrackers are set off, and cultural festivals take place, attracting many visitors. Families prepare traditional sweetmeats and gather to eat together. Like in Colombo, milk is boiled to mark the beginning of the new year.

Must-Visit Destinations in April

April is one of the best months to visit Sri Lanka due to its pleasant weather, seaside activities, and numerous festivals. Some of the best places to visit in April include cities of cultural significance like Galle, Dambulla, and Sigiriya as well as more laid-back destinations like Ella.


Galle is a beautiful coastal town, and one of the best holiday destinations in April. Known for its iconic Fort and landmarks built during colonial times, visitors can participate in or watch cultural performances and traditions held to celebrate the new year. The beaches provide a great place to relax and enjoy some family time, making it a wonderful place to spend a holiday getaway.


Situated in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, Dambulla is famous for its rich history, and is one of the best places to go to during the new year. Like many other cities in Sri Lanka, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year is celebrated in style, with traditional customs and rituals observed to mark the festival. A must-see attraction is the Dambulla temple, Sri Lanka, a fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tourists can also go hiking or enjoy a wildlife safari in the Minneriya national park.


Visitors to Dambulla can travel to the historic town of Sigiriya nearby, to ascend the Sigiriya Rock Fortress – another famous UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mild temperatures in April are perfect to make the steep climb to the top, and the clear weather provides stunning views of the surrounding landscape, with great opportunities for photos.


This serene hill town is set amidst lush greenery, providing a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of Colombo. It’s a great place for hiking, bird watching and exploring the beautiful waterfalls which are the highlight of this town. Travellers can also gain an insight into how local customs and traditions are observed here during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year.

The Sinhala and Tamil New Year is a joyful time when families all across the country come together to celebrate ancient traditions in harmony.

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