January in Sri Lanka brings some exciting events this New Year.
Is it safe?
Yes, Sri Lanka is a safe country for tourists to visit. In January, though, there are a couple of high profile events during which visitors would be smart to observe the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s advice of “avoid any political gatherings or rallies.”
On Thursday 8 January 2015 there is an election being held to choose the country’s next president, either the incumbent (who’s been there since 2005) or one of a score of rivals. It won’t be a calm affair. Then from Tuesday 13 to Thursday 15 January, His Holiness Pope Francis is paying a visit to Colombo and also to Madhu, a Roman Catholic shrine in the recently re-opened north of the country.
To cap all that, Thursday 15 January is the day of the Tamil Thai Pongal festival, an ancient thanksgiving harvest festival celebrated by Hindus the world over. Houses are decorated with mango and plantain leaves and the hearth is decorated with rice flour as the Tamil farming community and their supporters share happiness with nature.
Another happening coming up, on Tuesday 3 February, is the annual Navam Perahera organised by the Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo (see blog for November 2014). This is a lavish procession of elephants, fire eaters, jugglers and acrobats on the occasion of the Navam Full Moon Poya Day and is an awe-inspiring spectacle. Remember: all bars (even hotel ones) are closed every Full Moon Poya Day in Sri Lanka.
If you can get to Colombo on Sunday 25 January you can join in the celebration of the astonishing artistic talent of Sri Lankans when the annual open air art fair called the Kala Pola is held in the city.
‘Pola’ means fair or market in English and ‘Kala’ (if you say it a certain way) seems to be ‘colour.’ A colloquial phrase in Sinhala is kalabala which – according to ‘A Dictionary of Sri Lankan English’ by Michael Meyler – means ‘gaudy, cluttered, over decorated, as in “I don’t like his pictures, they’re too kalabala.”