These are the Buddhist flags that get put up everywhere on Poya Days (Full Moon Day, once a month).
SINHALA & TAMIL NEW YEAR
Religious festivals in Sri Lanka converge around the full moon period in April. Christians celebrate Easter, Muslims celebrate the Holy Prophet’s Birthday, Buddhists celebrate Bak Full Moon Poya Day, together with Sinhala and Tamil New Year Day celebrations. The country slows down and the temperature heats up as the nation enters the summer holiday period. Things don’t really kick back into life until after May Day and Wesak festival of light celebrations in mid May.
Children’s Sinhalese New Years Celebrations.
Activities include a pillow fight on a high beam, a slicked up coconut tree climb, clay pot bashing while blind folded, and a marathon (which saw many children collapsing - very dramatically). Other interesting traditions were milk boiling; sweet making and swinging while singing folk tunes (see pictures). Miriam got to catch up with some of the children she worked with in the Tsunami Camps, which was really nice.
Easter in Sri Lanka
With most people focused on Sinhala and Tamil New Year preparations, Easter eggs and chocolate rabbits didn’t really feature in any of the shops. This was a refreshing change giving churches the opportunity to bring attention to the true meaning of
Wisak Festival of light (Buddha’s Birthday).
The streets were filled with lanterns like this, very beautiful.
Easter. The AOG Church we attend ran outreach services on Good Friday and Easter Sunday and presented a powerful Easter message using clips from the Passion movie.
Murray is preaching at the church on a semi-regular basis and presented the Palm Sunday message. Miriam has been helping out with Sunday school, where she teaches 13 children in one tiny room. The children range in age from 1 up to 12 years old, which can be challenging. The people at church are lovely, and we’ve made some good friends.
New Year Adventures
With all the religious festivals going on it’s impossible to get anyone to work on the construction sites, so it was a good opportunity to see a bit more of Sri Lanka with some new Aussie friends from Colombo. The trip started at Kittugala with a Grade 2-3 White Water Rafting trip. We spent almost two hours enjoying the ride down river, finishing at the hotel for lunch - all this for only $14pp…best value for money anywhere in the world we reckon. After a quick nap we awoke at 11.30pm and drove two hours to the base of Adams Peak ready to climb the 4800 steps
New Years Celebrations.
Milk boiling and sweet making, Buddhist traditions to open the day.
to see the sun rise from the summit. The rock at the summit of Adams Peak is supposed to bare the imprint of Buddha’s foot, or alternatively Adam’s, depending on who you talk to. In any case it has a Buddhist Pagoda at the summit and is a significant pilgrimage site in Sri Lanka, with most pilgrims trekking up in the cool of the night. We had heard numerous bad reports about crowds being unbearable, but surprisingly this night the other climbers were few and far between. For this reason we reached the summit in less than three hours at around 4.30am, two hours before sunrise. At 2243m above sea level, even in Sri Lanka it can be cold, and being well prepared adventurers, we found ourselves freezing at the summit clothed only in sweat soaked shorts and T shirt. We rummaged through our packs, found a few extra pieces of clothing and then huddled together in a cozy little cave just below the summit to await sunrise. The sun rose at 6.30am…the view was incredible and made the hardship all seem worthwhile. We took numerous photos and at 6.35am we started the descent back down for breakfast. We enjoyed
it in a strange way, but I personally don’t intend on doing it ever again, as 3 days later I was still limping around and struggling like an old lady to sit down without making groaning noises. After a sumptuous breakfast we we’re straight into a 7 hour drive to Marissa Beach to tune up our surfing skills. We relaxed at Marissa for a couple of days, Miriam sunbathing and Murray trying to avoid getting washed up onto the coral reef, then it was back to Galle.
Back to Work
The permanent school rehabilitation and watsan programme has now swung into action. Murray is kept busy managing reconstruction for twelve schools, together with 700 household toilets, fisheries harbour buildings, two major water supply schemes, and several solid waste management facilities along the south coast. The volatile political situation in Northeast Sri Lanka, has slowed down the reconstruction activities in these areas, however at this stage South has not been affected. Please pray for ongoing safety as NGO staff continue working to bring relief to Tsunami and war affected communities in Sri Lanka.
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