Sri Lankan’s love to celebrate!! There are many festivals & celebrations throughout the year in Sri Lanka.
Some points to remember about festivals in Sri Lanka are;
On some occasions where a holiday is on a weekend, the government may declare a Public Holiday which will also be a dry day, without prior notice.
Christmas Day: Licensed hotels and restaurants are able to serve liquor but please note that liquor shops and some bars and establishments may be closed.
Please note that while some hotels have a complete liquor license to sell all types of alcohol, some have partial liquor licenses in which they can only sell beer and wine and other hotels may not have a license.
There are 12 Poya Days holidays yearly in Sri Lanka. Every full moon, known as Poya Day is considered a public holiday. These are religious days and recognised by the country’s government so that everyone is treated equally. 70% of Sri lankans are Buddhist, with a combination of Hindhu, Muslims & Christians making up the rest of the population.
Harvest festivals are celebrated all over the Island for 3 days beginning on the first day of the 10th month of the Tamil calendar in January. Traditional families begin by boiling milk mixed with jaggery, spices & rice. The whole village, including all members of the family are a part of the celebration held to honor the sun god for the bountiful harvest. Houses are decorated throughout the country.
Held in January every year since 2007 this festival for bookworms attracts many international visitors as well as locals. Connect with many prominant authors from around the world & others who love literature.
Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya buddhist temple near Colombo is host to one of the greatest traditional festivals in January. Devotees and tourists line the streets to watch the traditional ceremonies. Acrobats, singers, elephants and drummers make a colourful grand procession accompanied by fire dancers and torch bearers.
Sri Lanka got its independence from colonial rule on 4th February 1948. Every year the whole country celebrates this auspicious occasion with parades and ceremonies. There are military parades, fireworks, cultural performances, flag hoisting ceremonies and cannon fire shows.
Celebrated every February since 1979 in February the Navam Perahera is held at the Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo. Traditional music and dancing are featured along with fire dancers, elephants and flag bearers. Here you can witness many traditional dances such as Sabaragamuwa and Uta Rata.
In March every year on the island of Sri Lanka the Padmarajarathri is held. The celebration is Hindhu and people across the country celebrate the great night of Shiva with festivities and prayers. The day begins with worshippers carrying pots of water to the temple to bathe the Shiva Linga in. The day is spent fasting and meditating. Music and dance is also carried out at some temples, the Sri Kaleeswarar being one of those temples.
If you are in Sri Lanka during the month of April, you won’t be able to escape the festivities of New Year. It’s a time of colourful celebrations & ancient traditions for the Sinhala & Tamil populations. This is one of the biggest festivities of the year. Families are busy baking traditional sweets and cleaning their homes. Games are played on community fields & the sounds of fireworks are heard throughout the country.
Celebrations begin on the full moon in May and last up to a week. The Veska full moon poya day is the most important of all of the buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka. Colourful lanterns fill homes and shops and tiny clay lamps add a brightness to small villages throughout the country. Colombo is the best place to celebrate this occasion. This is a Buddhist celebration celebrating the three important milestones in his life.
This traditional pilgrimage begins in June each year and ends in July. Pilgrims begin on foot from Jaffna to Kataragama, in what is one of the ancient traditions still surviving in Sri Lanka today. It is an epic spiritual journey, with a range of Pilgrims from all walks of life joining the walk.
In June each year the Poson full moon day is celebrated. This festival is of great significance, and is the second most celebrated full moon by Buddhists. The grandest festivities for Poson are around Minitale. Across the island you will find alms-stores & bright lanterns.
Beginning at the end of July and running for a week, the Vel festival is an important Hinhu festival. It commemorates the victory of the war-god Skandha over the evil forces and venerates his trident (Vel). Devotees with white faces created by ash pull golden chariots along. A colourful procession of dancers, musicians and elephants walk through the streets to the sounds of traditional drums, chants and divine songs.
The Pedehara festival happens each year in July & the celebrations are also known as the festival of the tooth. Traditional dancing, drummers, colourful Sri Lankan outfits and the temple’s Elephants parade through the streets of Kandy. During the festivities there are crowds and excitement as people watch the spectacle in its full glory.
Thousands of Hindu devotees from across Sri Lanka arrive in Kataragama over a 2 week period in July for the Kataragama Esala Festival. Processions of dancers, elephants, fire eaters and acrobats are all part of the festivities.
August & September are the months that Hindhu devotees gather in Jaffna for the 25 day long Nallur Festival. This grand affair is held in honor of Lord Murugan and is definitely well worth witnessing.
Glittering deities are carried on Silver thrones throughout town on the day of the Chariot festival. Spectacular chariots travel through town along with all of the usual festivities on all other days of this long festival.
Celebrated across the country in mid November, the Diwali festival is one of the most famous festivals in Sri Lanka. Sweets, colorful lights and new clothes are celebrated with guests and visiting family. This traditional Hindhu festival is the biggest celebration of good over evil and well worth witnessing.