Runner-up is "Roots" written by Mumudi Gajadeera.
One hour stroll, meeting four different languages, four different places of religious importance and four obviously different traditional dresses. Well, that’s Sri Lanka for you. A small tropical island quite famous for spices. A perfect blend of different spices makes a dish perfect. That is what we are – a perfect dish. And we celebrate in unity.
A perfect stranger may be thoroughly baffled by the hassle about a ‘New Year’ in a mid-April. Well, for us Sri Lankans it is the real new year. The new year of the Sun. Aluth Avurudu or the traditional Sri Lankan New Year is when the sun moves from the House of Pisces to the House of Aries. The Avurudu season is defined by the blossoming of Erabadu flowers, singing of the Koha birds and the brand-new harvest. We see these good omens even today.
Let me take you through my favourite day of the year, event by event. Preparations for Aluth Avurudu begins weeks before. All the ritual are done according to a given auspicious timetable. The whole nation adheres to this timetable and cook, eat and work at the same time. The first ritual is the ‘Neutral time’ to stop all work and engage in religious activities. We play traditional Aluth Avurudu games too. This period can go for hours.
Then we have the auspicious time to light the hearth and cook meals. We boil coconut milk in a small brand-new clay pot, as it is believed to bring prosperity. The home is usually in chaos, as you have to cook, lay the table and be prepared for the next ritual in less than one hour. I take the responsibility of laying the dining table. We use a traditional brass oil lamp, which belonged to my late grandmother, as the center piece. Then we have an assortment of traditional sweet meats like Dodol, Aluwa, Kevum, Peniwalalu and Milk rice.
The next is the auspicious time for the ‘First Aluth Avurudu meal’. Traditionally, the head of the family lights the oil lamp. In our home that is my grandfather. Then we all eat, facing the given auspicious direction. As a tradition we pack large plates of food for the friends in need, families mourning a recent tragic incident and friends whose parents are working in essential services. It is the children’s duty to deliver them.
After all our responsibilities are fulfilled, comes my most favourite time of Aluth Avurudu. Playing with the neighbors. Houses are wide open, and we are allowed to mingle in the neighbourhood the whole day. After the sunset the whole neighbourhood, including the adults, come together to light fireworks. We all stay together until late night as no one wants to end the day in a hurry.
When you look superficially you may see it as a day of fun. But deep down I see roots. Roots connecting us together and holding even the weakest tree tight. That is my life is all about – Roots.
In the Age category 8 - 11 years, Mumudi Gajadeera's essay was chosen as one of the runners-up. The essay 'Roots' tells us about the favourite day of the year of the student, the traditional Sri Lankan New Year celebrations. Mumudi explores the various linked events of the festivities and shares insights about the deeper meaning of the community festivities.
Well done, Mumudi! Thank you for sharing with us your favourite festivities so we all can learn more about the traditions in your country! Congratulations!
Mumudi attends Horizon College International in Malabe/ Sri Lanka. Sinhala is the first language, English is the second language.
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