Sri Lanka is home to four main religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. This means there are a lot of public holidays each year – 25 in fact! Some of these holidays are celebrations that can be enjoyed by one and all. Here is a list of famous Sri Lankan festivals you can enjoy during the year
APRIL – Sinhala and Tamil New Year
The Sinhala and Tamil New Year marks the beginning of the Lunar year. It usually takes place sometime in April. Festivities are colorful and fun all around the island. Just like the Poya holidays, all formal or government businesses close and the island takes on a relaxed festive state. This is a festival celebrated by the entire population. Sri Lankans love friendly competitive games and the New Year is when you will find these kinds of games happening everywhere.
MAY – Vesak Poya – Festival of lights (Buddhist)
Vesak is the Poya festival that falls on the full moon of the month of March. According to the Buddhist moon calendar, it’s the first full moon of the new year. Vesak Poya is a triple celebration of Buddha. It is on this day that Buddha was born, found enlightenment, then many years later passed away. The Vesak festival takes over the city and most of the island. Every home and place of business hang white paper lanterns that are lit up at night.
JUNE – Poson Poya Festival (Buddhist)
Another grand Poya festivity is Poson Poya, which is the celebration of the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, It usually takes place during the full moon in June. There are celebrations all over the island like all Poya days but the main festivities for Poson Poya are at Mihintale. The Mihintale rock outcrop is believed to be the first place that the Buddhist monk Mahinda talked about Buddhism with King Devanampiyatissa. To get to Mihintale you can take a train to Anuradhapura and a car from there.
AUGUST – Kandy Esala Poya Perahera (Buddhist)
Another huge Poya celebration is the Esala Poya Perahera in Kandy. Esala Poya is the day that celebrates the arrival of the Buddha Tooth Relic to the famous Temple of the Tooth. Perahera means procession in Sinhalese. Peraheras take place every Poya holiday on small scale in Colombo and other places around the island, but none compare to the week-long celebrations in Kandy during Esala Poya. With a Perahera procession every day for a week, the experience is unbeatable. Dancers, musicians, dressed elephants, rituals and more, every day until the last night which is the biggest Perahera of all.