Sri Lanka Public Holidays and Festivals

When planning a trip to Sri Lanka it’s important to arrange your itinerary around the numerous Sri Lankan public holidays and festivals. Sri Lanka enjoys a relatively high number of public celebrations during the year and these can affect travel and business opening hours.

Whether you’re coming to Sri Lanka to celebrate one of these festivals or if you’re keen to know if these events may delay or disrupt your trip, knowing what is being celebrated and when is crucial. To help you prepare adequately for your trip the following article will provide a complete guide to the public and mercantile holidays in Sri Lanka that you may encounter on a visit.

Full Moon Poya Festivals In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka celebrates a full moon or “Poya” festival once a month. The exact dates for these festivities vary each year as they fall just before or after the day of the full moon itself. During each of these festivities, shops and businesses will close.

Vesak Poya is, however, a little different from the others and carries further significance. This festival lasts an extra 2 days beyond the Poya day itself as it celebrates the Buddha’s birthday.

Each Poya is meant to mark an important moment during the Buddha’s life and in the history of the Buddhist religion itself. During these festivity days, shops and businesses will usually remain closed and the selling of alcohol and meat is forbidden.

Poya

Month

Duruthu Full Moon Poya January
Navam Full Moon Poya February
Madin Full Moon Poya March
Bak Full Moon Poya April
Vesak Full Moon Poya May
Poson Full Moon Poya June
Esala Full Moon Poya July
Nikini Full Moon Poya August
Binara Full Moon Poya September
Vap Full Moon Poya October
Ill Full Moon Poya November
Unduvap Full Moon Poya December

Other Religious Festivals in Sri Lanka

In addition to the monthly Poya festivals, Sri Lanka also celebrates 9 other religious festivities throughout the year. Due to the broad mix of religions practiced by the population of the country, there are holidays dedicated to Hindu, Muslim and even Christian celebrations.

Like with the Poya these are observed by businesses and banks, which will be closed or open for fewer hours during the duration of the festivals. Additionally, on occasions where the date of a public holiday falls on a weekend, the government sometimes grants banks and businesses a holiday in lieu on the next working day.

Festival

Duration

Religion

Date

Tamil Thai Pongal Day 1 day Hindu Mid-January
Mahasivarathri Day 1 day Hindu Falls between Late February – early March
Good Friday 1 day Christian Falls between late March-early April
Tamil New Year 2 days Hindu Early April
Id-Ul-Fitr 1 day Muslim Falls between May – June
Idul Adha 1 day Muslim Falls between July – September
Deepavali Festival Day 1 day Hindu Falls between October – November
Milad-Un-Nabi 1 day Muslim Falls between October – early December
Christmas Day 1 day Christian December 25th

Secular National Holidays in Sri Lanka

In addition to its many religious holidays, the country also celebrates a number of non-religious, secular national holidays. In these cases, the vacation days are dedicated to celebrating the nation’s independence and the country’s workforce. These dates include:

Festival

Date

National Day February 4th
Labor Day May 4th

Other Significant Festivals in Sri Lanka

In addition to these national festivals, there are also local celebrations that are unique to the country. One of these, which is both popular with locals and tourists alike, is Kandy Esala Perahera, which is held to venerate a sacred tooth that once belonged to the Buddha.

This lavish and colorful Buddhist festival, sometimes colloquially known as Sri Lanka’s elephant festival, is celebrated during August and is a truly once in a lifetime experience. Featuring fire dancers, bright costumes, local music, and an elephant procession, this is a cultural festival unlike any other.

Sri Lanka is a land of celebration and with the nation’s rich mix of different cultures and beliefs, there’s always a lot going on. However, with the right information about these special occasions and a little forward planning, any trip to this beautiful land will run a lot smoother.

When visiting Sri Lanka it’s important to remember that a pre-authorized Sri Lanka Visa is obligatory for all foreign visitors except for nationals of the Seychelles, Singapore, and the Maldives. To register for your Sri Lanka eTA today, simply fill out a quick and easy online Sri Lanka eTA application. Approval is normally given within 48 hours and when granted, you will receive your authorized Sri Lankan eTA directly to your email address.

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