Sri Lanka Festivals, Events & Celebrations
Sri Lanka is a country rich in culture and history and the people of Sri Lanka love to find reasons to celebrate. We have highlighted some of the festivals, so that you can sample the Sri lankan culture during your visit
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The colorful Thai Pongal Festival celebrated by the Hindu devotees of Sri Lanka is celebrated on 14 of January
The houses are adorned in colourful kolam, intricate drawings done on the floors using flour. Special Pujas (prayer ceremonies) are held in Kovils to worship the Sun God. It is customary to cook the Pongal meal and share it with neighbors, especially non-hindus
Sri lanka acquired independence in 1948 on 04 th February. There are many celebrations around the country on this special holiday and the main one is usually in Parliamentary grounds in Sri Jayawardhanapura and is attended by politicians, diplomats etc.
This important religious festival is held end February or beginning March. Poojas are held through out the country all night and vigils are held in the households.
All visitors to the Capital during this period can experience the perahera and witness the colourfully dressed elephants and musicians and dancers parading in the streets of Colombo.
Sinhala and Tamil New Year
Celebrated by all Sinhalese and Tamils, the traditional New Year celebrations fall on between 12 to 14 April and is the celebration of Sun God’s passage from Pisces to Aries. It is a harvest thanksgiving and is mainly celebrated by the villagers in true traditional style. A colourful and extravagant festival, this season is usually a holiday for the whole country. The Aluth Avurudu (New Year) is a time for friendships and family and many traditions are observed according to the litha (A strological time). New clothes are worn, milk boiled and traditional ricemilk with sweets fill the tables. The youth spend the day engaged in various traditional games such as climbing a greased poll, pillow fighting, breaking a pot blindfolded and the girls plating swinging. The women also fill the air with Raban padha ( traditional drum instrument) dressed in their new year costume.
Celebrated by Catholics around the country but mainly in the coastal area around Kandana, Negombo etc., The crucification of Christ is acted- out for three hours and is a touchy experience taking you to the mountain of Golgotha.
Wesak , the most hallowed of Buddhist festivals commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha is held on the full moon day in May and the day following it. Starting at dawn, Buddhists dressed in white start to make their way to the temple to observe sila , in which they spend the day meditating, reading religious texts, and listening to sermons. At night the temples are crowded with devotees bringing flowers and offerings. Nevertheless, Wesak is a joyous occasion and is celebrated with verve and imagination. Among the many striking decorations are intricate Wesak paper lanterns of different shapes and sizes, and the thousands of little clay coconut oil lamps ( pol-thel pahana ) that flicker throughout the island.
In Colombo the celebrations are unsurpassed. Enormous pandals (bamboo frameworks) hung with pictures depicting events in the life of the Buddha are erected in the streets, illuminated by a myriad of flashing coloured electric light bulbs. Another special feature of Wesak are the danselas (alms booths). These are temporary sheds, set up by the roadside with tables and chairs by local people, at which food and refreshment are given free to sightseers and pilgrims. In addition, puppet shows and open-air theatre performances telling Buddhist tales are held throughout the island.
The Esala Perahera in Kandy
One of the most glamorous cultural processions in the world. The procession takes place on 10 consecutive nights, where the first six nights are known as Kumbal perahera and the last four nights is the much more glamorous Randoli perahera with the final night having a 100 elephants adorned in elegant costumes parading. The event is celebrated once a year since the 3 rd century AD to allow pilgrims to pay homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic carried by the Diyawadana Nilame, selected to be the trustee of the temple. The event is made colourful and vivid with many dancers and instrument players parading
Madhu Festival and the Feast of St. Anne
Celebrated by Catholics, The Madhu and the St Annes church are known to have miracle statues. Devotees visit the pilgrimage site and spend time in prayer while overnight sleep is in the camping site outside the church.
If you happen to be in Colombo at the time of the Esala Perahera in Kandy, do make a note to see the religious celebrations of the Hindus, held in Colombo, another procession where the God of war carries his Vel (trident weapon) from the Muthuvinayagam Swami Kovil in Sea Street, Pettah, to the Kathiresan in Bambalapitiya or Wellawatte. You can observe the fetival during the day, if you’re on Galle Road between Pettah and Bambalapitiya.
This is the beginning of the financial year for the Hindu business community. The Goddess of wealth is welcomed to homes decorated with kolam and lit with lamps.
The month of Christmas is a high trading month in Colombo where people are preparing of Christmas and New Year celebrations. Christmas is mainly glamorous in Colombo and the coastal catholic areas, where the birth of Christ is celebrated with crackers, mid-night mass, family gatherings and joyous sharing with the poor.