Sri Lankan New Year,
which occurs usually on the 13th and 14th of April, is a non-religious festival celebrated by the whole population. Originally a harvest thanksgiving, it does not begin at midnight on the designated day, because, like many events in Sri Lanka, the precise (.auspicious.) timings are decided upon astrologically. It.s believed New Year commences not when the old one ends, but a few hours later. The interval between the old and the new is called nona gathe, or .neutral period., during which all activities cease. When the New Year commences, fresh activities begin: a fire is lit and new clothes are worn. Then comes the gana-denu, or .give and take. in which money is exchanged. The festival culminates when oil is mixed with a herbal paste and a respected elder anoints the head of each family member. Over the festive period traditional games, both indoor and out, such as kotta pora (pillow fighting) and havari hengima (hiding the wig) are played in homes and villages, bringing together families and communities. Many shops are closed for up to a week over New Year as people travel en-masse with gifts and specially prepared festive food to offer to family and friends.