FoG Abuzz: A Month of
Competitions and Celebrations
Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living.
April is a month that most Sri Lankans get excited about. Mid April brings the celebration of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, amid much tradition, ritual and festivity. The entire month is abuzz with the celebration of this great and auspicious day. The cuckoo call heralds the coming of the traditional New Year and brings an air of excitement and anticipation, and Sri Lankans spend the first half of the month in preparation for the coming new year, and the latter half in celebrating it. Across the various sectors of the Foundation, we were no less excited than the general population and there were multiple functions held to observe the traditional rituals as well as to engage in the festivities of the season.
The festivities of the month made April busier than ever, for running alongside the celebrations were the usual FoG events and activities. This was an especially busy month for our sports academy as they participated in a number of matches against teams from across the globe and organised a sports workshop as well as being involved in a beach clean-up in the spirit of the season.
The month quite literally began with the arrival of the Rex Martens Cricket Academy from Singapore to play a match against the FoG Cricket Academy on the 1st of April. There were around 44 people in the group which included young cricketers in the under 13-16 age group, their parents and coaches. A 30 over match was played at the Sri Wimala Buddhi Surrey Oval against the FoG team and the Sri Wimala Buddhi under 13 cricketers. The Rex Martens group generously donated both new and used cricket material, used cricket/ football boots and clothing to the Foundation. On the 3rd there was a match between the FoG Cricket Academy under 14’s and the Northcote Lodge Cricket Academy from the UK at the Sri Sumangala College MCC Lords Grounds.
The end of the following week marked a second cluster of matches to be played against both local and international teams, all of which took place at Ari Wimala Buddhi MV’s Surrey Oval. Over the weekend of 7th Saturday and 8th Sunday Gateway International College played a 30 overs and a T20 game against the FoG under 15 team. The under 17 and under 19 teams had their own chance to test their skill in the friendly match between Lincolnshire Cricket Academy from UK on Monday the 9th. Finally FoG’s under 13 team played Moreton Cricket Academy from Australia on the 10th Tuesday, heralding an end to the busy month of friendly matches. This did not mean the staff at the sports academy had a chance to relax, and on the 28th of April they held a Sports Workshop in order to hone and improve our young athletes’ skills.
Despite the flood of matches that they had to attend the sports academy still found the time to participate in a local beach cleaning programme. The need for a clean environment and beautiful beaches became more prominent than usual in this month of festivities and the cricketers, swimmers and netball players at the sports academy joined together on the 5th of April in an event organised by the Youth Forum Committee to clean up our beaches.
Amid all the hustle and bustle of the busy cricketing month, the sports academy and the other FoG sectors still found the time to celebrate our traditional New Year in style. There are three key events that everyone needs to be familiar with when it comes to the New Year customs in Sri Lanka. At allocated times the arrival of the New Year and its new activities are heralded by lighting the hearth fires in every Sri Lankan kitchen followed by enjoying the traditional foods and dishes as a family or group and finally there is the exchange of money and gift to symbolise the start of business in the new year. Scattered among these events are a variety of other traditions, each of which are much ritualised.
Since the FoG was on holiday over the New Year period, the celebrations were held by the different sectors on the days immediately leading up to, and after the New Year Holiday. The first to celebrate the coming New Year was the Lahiru Pre-School who observed traditional New Year Customs on Wednesday the 4th before they had their festivities on the 5th. Lighting the kitchen fires to heralds the beginning of the festivities, the children observed a religious period during which time they said their prayers and conducted religious activities. Since the traditions are observed by both the Sinhalese and Tamil populations of Sri Lanka the pre-school set up two mock families, the Sinhala family and the Tamil one, and the children played at visiting each other with gifts and greetings of goodwill. Then it was time to eat. The traditional oil lamps were lit and everyone enjoyed delicacies that are abundant only at this time of the year. After exchanging money the children paid obeisance to their parents to show their respect.
One of the most exciting activities to take place was the ‘Awurudu Gammanaya’ or the New Year’s Village organised in Rathgama by the Children’s Goodness Club on the 7th of April. The children dressed up in character and enacted traditional rituals. There was a Sinhala family and a Tamil family, kids dressed up in traditional garb to compete for the place of the New Year’s Prince and Princess, and other who would perform songs and dances. The children lit the hearth fires and paid obeisance to their parents before sitting down to enjoy their traditional fare. Next, they visited each other at the ‘Sinhalese home’ and ‘Tamil home’ before the fun began. The children played games, performed songs and dances for each other and competed for the place of the New Year’s Prince and Princess. As the day drew to a close their were thank you speeches and a distribution of gifts to the attending children.
On the 17th the sports academy celebrated a quiet New Year where the staff, along with the resident volunteers Laura McKenzie, Harriet Cornish and Jessica Hawksley lit oil lamps and enjoyed a meal of traditional delicacies such as milk rice, spicy onion and chillie sambal and sweet oil cakes.
The final festival for the year was an all day celebration on the 28th at the Seenigama MCC Centre of Excellence for all the members of the various Children’s Goodness Clubs (from the villages of Seenigama, Rathgama, Akurala, Kahawa and Udumulla) the Sports Academy and other FoG participants. Held at the Seenigama Sport Academy, the day began by lighting the traditional oil lamp which had been beautifully and imaginatively constructed. Soon after the competitions began and with it a day full of fun for both the young and old. While some competitions were open only to the younger kids there were also a variety of events which were open to the older kids and any visiting parent or well-wisher. The day kicked off with a version of pin the tail on the donkey where the children had to draw an eye on elephant silhouette, followed by a bun eating competition and then the day got well underway with a wide variety of games often taking place at the same time. There were the very traditional games like ‘kana mutti’ which uses a clay pot instead of a piñata, ‘kotta pora’ where two contestants balancing on a narrow coconut trunk laid out at a height try to knock each other off using during a pillow fight, tug of war, weaving coconut fronds and grating coconut. There were also certain games which were western and Sri Lankan fusion such as balancing a lime on a spoon, sack races and bobbing for apples. Young athletes were encouraged to participate in the 100 meter run and one of FoG’s British volunteers, Andy Simth introduced his own game of ‘Bash the rat’ by offering a brand new Barmy Army t-shirt as a prize.
In addition to Andy, Laura McKenzie, Harriet Cornish and Jessica Hawksley from the UK who are currently volunteering with the FoG as well as Romy Hebden from Switzerland volunteering at the FoG’s Colombo office were all present to witness and participate in the day’s activities. The kids were overflowing with excitement as the day progressed, young Sajith Madusanka from Seenigama who had won the coin search humorously explained to me of his friend Danujaya who had drawn an eye on the elephants tail, and that it was 11 year old Sarinda from the Rathgama Children’s Goodness Club (CGC) who had won the event. 17 year old T. M. Dilshan from Udumulla CGC got lucky as he only entered in the balloon dance competition (having tied a balloon to your own ankle you proceed to try and stomp out everyone else’s balloons while keeping yours intact) and won first place. Little Sahanya from the Kahawa CGC tugged at my arm to boast that older brother had won first place at the lime and spoon race although she only came fourth in an event that required you to fill an empty bottle with water scooped up in your palms. The very popular game of kotta pora was won by Dushan from Akurala who manages to know all his opponents off their perch using his pillow. A long and fun filled day ended when the winners of the fancy dress even and the New Year’s Prince and Princess were selected. The winners were happily unwrapping their gifts as the crowd slowly dispersed in the growing gloom of night.
Looking back on a busy month, everyone at FoG glows with pride and happiness at all that we have accomplished over this month, and we eagerly look forward to the month of May bringing with it its own traditional celebration…but to find out what that was, you will have to come back later this month, we look forward to it.
"Life is a festival only to the wise."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson