Celebrating New Year in Sri Lanka

Boiling the Milk: Celebrating New Year in Sri Lanka

Discovering you are in a country at a time of celebration is always a highlight for me. I travelled in Sri Lanka at the time of the New Year celebrations which was really interesting to experience.

New Year in Sri Lanka is a major celebration. If you are travelling at that time you’ll find that public transportation, shops, businesses and some restaurants all close for the day so you need to plan ahead. New Year tends to occur around New Moon and commemorates the end of the harvest season and beginning of spring. This is a family time so people tend to spend time in their homes with family members.

The day before New Year is auspicious when people go to the temples to pray. I watched as people patiently queued outside the temples in Galle. There were also queues at the liquor stores with guys buying up drink for the celebrations to come.

Celebrating New Year in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka New Year is celebrated in homes by the family lighting a fire in their living area to boil a pan of milk. Most places have an oil lamp with a cockerel that is brought out for special occasions such as weddings and new year. It was in the room as I stood watching what was about to happen. I was invited to join the hotel staff who literally set up a fire in the main dining area. With a fireproof base, the fire was built and a pan of milk placed on the top. We all watched as the milk began to boil, the locals waiting in anticipation. When the milk is hot enough and boils over, this signifies success and prosperity for the year to come.


Traditionally, the youngest family member greets the oldest one, followed by the second youngest until everyone has greeted each other. This strengthens family bonds. Games generally follow with special cakes and sweets.

It was a kind gesture to allow me to participate in what is a major event for the Sri Lankan community.

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