Getting ready for the celebrations
For many Sri Lankans living in Australia, the occasion brings back many happy memories of their childhood, celebrating with firecrackers and delicious foods such as milk rice, a dish known as Kiribath that signifies prosperity for the New Year.
Following their meals, the children of the family will traditionally gift their elders with a sheaf of betel leaves, and in return, the elders give them money as their first transaction of the New Year, known as Ganu Denu in Sinhalese or Kai-Vishesham in Tamil, to bring the children good luck.
Sri Lankan-Australian community member Virosh Perera said the tradition of Ganu Denu is all about the gift of giving, and he says many other Sri Lankans who are part of the diaspora continue to practice this as part of their New Year celebrations.
“I not only do it for Sinhalese New Year, but also on December 31, where we give money to everyone that we meet during the day,” Mr Perera explained.
“It’s not about receiving the money, it’s about giving, and it’s a really nice feeling because you’re starting the year on a very positive note and everyone really appreciates that part. We also have certain Sinhalese traditions, such as lighting up an oil lamp, which signifies being energised through light throughout the New Year.”
Fondly remembering his time growing up in Sri Lanka, Mr Vinnie Shanmugalingam said he has also made sure he maintains the traditions of the day, despite living thousands of miles away.
“Generally, on New Years Day, we eat lots of delicious vegetarian food and then celebrate by coming together with the Sinhalese and Hindu communities at a local hall,” he said.
“We look forward to this particular function because from a young age, we’ve been celebrating the New Year, so we need to make sure we maintain the same traditions in Australia.
“Everyone in the Sinhalese and Hindu communities looks forward to this day because we can meet each other and bring back good old memories from our time in Sri Lanka.”
Like Mr Perera and others in the Sri Lankan communities across Australia, Mr Shanmugalingam also observes Ganu Denu and Kai-Vishesham traditions by sending financial gifts to the children in his family every year.
“The children always really look forward to their brothers or uncles giving them money,” he said.
“I definitely also send money about a week before the New Year to my family and friends, for them to buy their clothing and to cover whatever other expenses they may have.
“I do this on a yearly basis and it is a special one, so it’s done in addition to what I send monthly, and my family really looks forward to receiving this gift.”
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