People travel hundreds of miles to celebrate Sri Lankan New Year in Harrison
Nalinda Wickramasinghe and his 8-year-old son, Thesath, traveled about 150 miles to celebrate the Sri Lankan New Year in Harrison on Sunday.
The family comes from Cleveland to attend the celebration each year at the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center to keep the traditions alive for the children and relish in the renewal and promise of the New Year.
“That’s the main reason,” Wickramasinghe said. “When you come here you get to calm down a little bit.”
The Sri Lankan New Year, also known as the Sinhalese New Year, follows a lunisolar calendar in keeping with traditional Sinhalese astrology.
Dozens of families from near and far participated in the ceremony, which included the traditional exchange of betel leaves in asking forgiveness and expressing humility as well as anointment with herb-infused oil.
“You use that to welcome each other and forgive everything that’s happened in the past,” said secretary of the center Damitha Karunaratne.
Karunaratne said the New Year corresponds with the harvest in Sri Lanka. Families celebrate by cooking and eating their crops from that season.
“It’s really nice bringing people together and making harmony in the family,” Karunaratne said.
Chanaka and Sakunthala Waduge brought their daughter, Samadhi, 4, from Greensburg.
“She can learn our culture and get blessed from the monk,” Chanaka Waduge said of why they attend the ceremony.
Attendees also feasted on traditional Sri Lankan foods such as cashew curry, rice and spicy onions. They also offered traditional sweets including a Sri Lankan pudding and deep fried kokis, made from rice flour and coconut milk.
The Pittsburgh Buddhist Center, located off Route 908, opened in 2006 and is open to people of all religions.
Bhante Pemaratana, the center’s chief monk, said he likes to focus on gratitude and relationships during the ceremony to bring perspective to the attendees who may be caught up in trying to find peace and joy through material things.
“We would like to give this opportunity for people to come and renew,” Pemaratana said.
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 724-226-4680, [email protected] or via Twitter .