A time for renewal

This time of year is traditionally a time of renewal.  A time of farewell and thankfulness to what’s gone by, and a celebration in joyful hope of what is yet to come.  It’s a rebirth of sorts.

What I find very interesting is how similar cultures are and how many mark this joyous period of the year in such a variety of traditions.  Check out what’s happening this week alone.

Here in Sri Lanka, it’s New Year tomorrow.  A national holiday, it’s known as Avurudu by the Sinhala and Puththandu by the Tamil and is celebrated by both cultures.  Special New Year dishes are scoffed on New Year’s morning and include kiribath (a coconut milk rice cooked in an earthen pot) and hath maluwa (a seven vegetable curry).  To top off the meal, a large selection of sweets – it would not be Sri Lankan if there wasn’t an overkill on sweet things!

It’s also a tradition to don new clothes and give many gifts to family.  It’s a pretty big day, the markets and grocery stores were jammed yesterday.

My family and friends in Ireland and Canada are celebrating Easter.  For practicing Christians, it’s the closing of Lent where you get to eat all the yummy things you gave up for 40 days and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday.  See – there’s that renewal theme again.  For everyone else it’s a time to gather with family and friends for a feast, and enjoy good chocolate.

More of my Canadian friends are commemorating Passover which is a Jewish holiday that marks the liberation from slavery and freedom as a nation for all Jews.  Monday will see many sharing food with family and friends with unleavened bread being key.

A large crowd in Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square on Tuesday night.  Photo credit: Skanda Gautam

In Bhaktapur, Nepal, Bisket Jatra is celebrated over a few days around the time of new year on the Bikram Sambat calendar. It coincides with the transition from Winter to Spring and is a frenzied festival where a chariot carrying a statue of the God Bhairava is pulled by hundreds of people ending up in Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square.

Young men in the tug of war.  Unsure what part of town they are from! Photo credit: Skanda Gautam

A huge tug-of-war between the eastern and western part of town commences, each side trying to pull the chariot to their part of town.  By New Year’s Eve, it’s pulled down and today saw the New Year being brought in.

In 2014 I experienced the preparations for Bisket Jatra in the days prior but decided against attending as it can get quite boisterous.

This is a photo of the chariot itself taken in 2014.  It’s bound together with straw ropes – very unstable!  Photo credit:  Kathmandu Post.

The young men can get a tad boisterous in their celebrations as we saw yesterday where over 11 young men were arrested for bad behaviour.  Those crazy crowds are just not my thing!

To end this post, no matter what you are celebrating this week or where you are in the world, go in peace and love with your family and friends.

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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