Monks to lead Buddhist ceremony in Ilford today celebrating the new year

A pavilion decorated with leaves, hours of chanting and the blessing of a special thread will be how 300 people belatedly welcome in the new year.

The ceremony to bless the year ahead is taking place today at the Redbridge Buddhist Cultural Centre, Balfour Road, Ilford with 14 monks leading proceedings.

The pavilion has been specially created for the ceremony with leaves brought over from Sri Lanka for the occasion.

Venerable Pethigamuwe Hemaratana said: “It’s a happy occasion as it’s the new year.

“Usually it’s on the first day of the year but we have it now because people are very busy on that day.”

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Monks have come from as far as Birmingham to take part in the ceremony with preparations beginning on Thursday to decorate the pavilion set up inside the temple.

Mr Hemaratana said: “The pavilion is set up in the shrine room and it’s decorated with betel leaves and coconut leaves which were brought from Sri Lanka. It’s a traditional thing.”

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The ceremony is set to begin with the monks speaking about the benefits of chanting before blessing those present.

Near midnight the monks bless an urn of water which is then given to followers to drink.

“We then bless a special threat connected to the pavilion and the monks chant and pass it to all the people and the sounds pass through the thread then at the end we cut it and tie it around the right wrist. It’s a blessing,” added Mr Hemaratana.

He said that in Sri Lanka the ceremony would go on until the morning.

Mr Hemaratana said: “Usually we do it all night but here we cannot as people are busy and they cannot stay, in Sri Lanka people are not so busy so they stay.”

On Sunday people will return to have a meal of milk rice together.

The temple adheres to the Theravada branch of Buddhism which is believed to be the oldest surviving form of the religion. Theravada means teaching of the elders and is the predominant religion in Sri Lanka.

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