Have you decided on your travel plans for the brand-new year of 2023? Hope you haven’t forgotten to add the paradise island of Sri Lanka to your bucket list! It is always considered one of the best tourist hotspots. From the gorgeous beachline to the colorful mountainous region, Sri Lanka is basically an all-in-one package for an avid traveler. Since Sri Lanka is a multi-cultural country, people belonging to different ethnicities and religions live there in peace and harmony. And a multi-cultural country means there are more festivals and holidays! It will be important for you to be aware of Sri Lanka’s holidays prior to your visit for many reasons. Firstly, it will be a fascinating experience to learn about the unique culture. Besides, some services and institutions are closed during public holidays. So, here’s all you need to know about such important days in Sri Lanka.
What are the Important Events and Special Days in Sri Lanka?
Here is how the important events and special days for the year 2023 are lined up!
|Special Events||Day of Celebration in 2023|
|Dawn of the New Year||1st January 2023|
|Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day||6th January 2023|
|Thai Pongal Festival||15th January 2023|
|Independence Day||4th February 2023|
|Navam Full Moon Poya Day||5th February 2023|
|Maha Shivaratri Festival||18th February 2023|
|Madin Full Moon Poya Day||6th March 2023|
|Bak Full Moon Poya Day||5th April 2023|
|Good Friday||7th April 2023|
|Easter Sunday||9th April 2023|
|Sinhala and Tamil New Year||14th April 2023|
|Eid-Al-Fitr||22nd April 2023|
|May Day||1st May 2023|
|Vesak Full Moon Poya Day||5th May 2023|
|Poson Full Moon Poya Day||3rd June 2023|
|Eid-Al-Adha||29th June 2023|
|Adhi Esala Full Moon Poya Day||3rd July 2023|
|Esala Full Moon Poya Day||1st August 2023|
|The Grand Procession of Esala Perahera Festival||1st August 2023|
|Nikini Full Moon Poya Day||30th August 2023|
|Milad-Un-Nabi Festival||28th September 2023|
|Binara Full Moon Poya Day||29th September 2023|
|Vap Full Moon Poya Day||28th October 2023|
|Deepavali Festival||12th November 2023|
|Ill Full Moon Poya Day||26th November 2023|
|Christmas||25th December 2023|
|Unduvap Full Moon Poya day||26th December 2023|
Do you like to learn more about these special days in Sri Lanka in detail? Some of these days hold a cultural significance and others hold a national significance. So, here’s some more information on the above-mentioned special days.
Sri Lanka in January 2023
January brings out the hopes for the new year of 2023. Here are the main events of the brand-new month of the brand-new year.
Dawn of the New Year
According to the Gregorian calendar, Sri Lankans also celebrate the beginning of the new year on the 1st of January.
- Date of Celebration: Sunday, 1st of January 2023
- Significance: First day of the year according to the Gregorian calendar
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Even though the 1st of January is not a public holiday in Sri Lanka, Sri Lankans also celebrate the day to welcome the new year. So, a ‘Kiribath’ dish, a traditional Sri Lankan dish prepared with rice and coconut milk, is enjoyed in every household as the first meal of the new year. Since Sri Lanka is a country that always gives priority to its religious and cultural values, many tend to visit their respective religious places to get blessings for the upcoming year. Like in any other country, the youngsters start the new year with a blast along with the 31st night celebrations. As such, Sri Lankans welcome the new year with many celebrations to take a fresh start.
Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day
This is the first Poya day of the year which is important for the Buddhists in Sri Lanka. However, it is important to keep in mind that the Poya days are public holidays in Sri Lanka.
- Date of Celebration: Friday, 6th January 2023
- Significance: On a Duruthu poya day, Lord Buddha visited Sri Lanka for the first time and left his footprint on Adam’s peak.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Buddhists visit the temple to engage in various religious observances such as observing sil, Bodhi puja, and almsgiving. This poya day is also the beginning of the pilgrimage season to Adam’s peak. From this poya day onwards, the pilgrims can visit Adam’s peak to worship Lord Buddha’s footprint.
Thai Pongal Festival
This is a religious festival celebrated by the Tamils. The main purpose of the Thai Pongal festival is to show gratitude towards mother nature for offering a good harvest.
- Date of Celebration: Sunday, 15th January 2023
- Significance: This day is dedicated to the Sun God and this is basically a thanksgiving ceremony for the goodwill of mother nature.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: In Sri Lanka, the Thai Pongal festival is well known as an event of retreat. Sri Lankan Tamils celebrate the festival to pay tribute to the sun, cattle, and nature for the support extended towards their agricultural purposes. Boiling milk marks the beginning of the various festivities. Moreover, Tamils decorate their house with ‘kolam’ patterns for the festival and they prepare various traditional sweetmeats and a sweet Pongal rice dish for the special day. They share these food items with their neighbors and relatives. Another special item of the Thai Pongal festival is bathing their cattle, decorating them, and treating them with festive food. Furthermore, the Tamils visit the kovil to offer their gratitude to the Gods and take the blessings for the new year.
Important Events and Special Days in February 2023
There are only a few special days for Sri Lankans in the month of February.
National Independence Day is unarguably the most important day in the month of February for Sri Lankans.
- Date of Celebration: Saturday, 4th February 2023
- Significance: On 4th February 1948, Sri Lanka gained political independence from British rule after being colonized by three nations for a period of over five centuries.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Sri Lanka celebrates its 75th independence in 2023. On this day, Sri Lankans celebrate the bravery and freedom of the Sri Lankan nation with pride. The main event for Independence Day is held at Independence Square in Colombo with the Sri Lankan president, prime minister, ministers, other dignitaries, and foreign officials gracing the occasion. A parade of the Tri forces and other cultural performances can be seen in this event. All Sri Lankans raise the national flag at their homes to celebrate their nation. It is a public holiday in Sri Lanka.
Navam Full Moon Poya Day
This is the poya day of the month of February and it is also a public holiday in Sri Lanka.
- Date of Celebration: Sunday, 5th February 2023
- Significance: The first-ever Buddhist congregation and the appointment of the two chief disciples happened on a Navam poya day.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Buddhists visit the temple to observe their religion. Apart from that, Ganagaramaya temple in Colombo organize its perahera festival on this poya day.
Maha Shivaratri Festival
Maha Shivaratri is another important festival for the Hindus in Sri Lanka. It is popularly known as the ‘Great night of Shiva’.
- Date of Celebration: Saturday, 18th February 2023
- Significance: This festival is to celebrate God Shiva and according to popular belief, Lord Shiva performs his heavenly dance on this day.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: This festival symbolizes overcoming darkness and ignorance. The religious festivities include bathing the Shiva linga with milk, offering prayers, fasting, and conducting various puja as means of respect for the God Shiva. Moreover, Hindus organize colorful and vibrant festivals in Shiva temples for Maha Sivaratri day.
Important Events and Special Days in March 2023
Poya day is the only special event marked in the calendar for the month of March 2023 for Sri Lankans.
Madin Full Moon Poya Day
This is another important poya day for the Buddhists in Sri Lanka.
- Date of Celebration: Monday, 6th March 2023
- Significance: Lord Buddha visited his family after six years of enlightenment on a Madin poya day. On this day, Lord Buddha’s son, Prince Rahula entered the Buddha sasana.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: On this poya day also, Buddhists visit the temples to observe the Dhamma teachings of the Lord Buddha.
Important Events and Special Days in Sri Lanka in April 2023
Here comes the most happening and the most anticipated month of the year for Sri Lankans. There are several important festivals that are celebrated in Sri Lanka in April. Along with that, the spring vibes make the month much more exciting. Keep reading to know about those festivals in detail.
Bak Full Moon Poya Day
The special days of the month of April start with the Bak full moon poya day.
- Date of Celebration: Wednesday, 5th April 2023
- Significance: Lord Buddha paid his second visit to Sri Lanka on a Bak poya day. This was after five years of enlightenment.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Buddhists engage in their usual religious activities on this poya day as well. In fact, they visit temples, observe sil, and listen to Dhamma sermons.
This is an important day for Christians as they celebrate Good Friday before the Easter celebrations to pay respect for the sacrifices made by Jesus Christ.
- Date of Celebration: Friday, 7th April 2023
- Significance: To commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Cavalry
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: There are church services in the afternoon for Good Friday which usually lasts for 3 hours symbolizing the last hours of Jesus Christ. Christians attend these church services wearing sober attire as it is considered a day of mourning. Further, this is a public holiday in Sri Lanka.
This is another religious festival celebrated by Christians in the month of April.
- Date of Celebration: Sunday, 9th April 2023
- Significance: This is to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Christians attend the church services held with joy and celebration as it is celebrated for the empathy of Jesus Christ towards humankind. In the present, Sri Lankans also accompany events like Easter parties to celebrate Easter Sunday. However, such events can be seen mainly around urban areas.
Sinhala and Tamil New Year
Sinhala and Tamil New Year day marks the beginning of the traditional new year and it is celebrated by the Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka.
- Date of Celebration: Friday, 14th April 2022
- Significance: The day marks the beginning of the traditional new year as the sun moves from the Meena Rashiya (house of Pisces) to Mesha rashiya (house of Aries).
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: The traditional new year’s day is possibly the biggest celebration of the year for the Sinhalese and Tamil communities. There are many rituals and events during this season that are incorporated with religion, astrology, and culture. The main rituals include lighting the hearth, enjoying the Avurudu table, exchanging money and gifts, engaging in work at auspicious times, and anointing oil. Furthermore, Sinhalese and Tamils make traditional sweetmeats and celebrate the new year with their families. Moreover, they visit their relatives and friends to extend greetings. After these multiple festivities, Sinhalese and Tamils move on to the new year with hearts filled with warmth and happiness.
This is a festival celebrated by the Muslim community.
- Date of Celebration: Saturday, 22nd April 2023
- Significance: This is the first of the two Eids in the Islamic calendar and it is held to break the holy fast of the Ramadan season.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: This is a joyful occasion for Muslims as they end their month of holy fasting and prayers on Eid-Al-Fitr. They observe their religion on this day by attending communal prayers and listening to sermons. They also make sure to engage in good deeds such as sharing food and money with the needy.
Important Events and Special Days in Sri Lanka in May 2023
May is an important month for Buddhists. The special days in the month of May are as follows.
This is International Workers’ Day which is celebrated in high regard in Sri Lanka.
- Date of Celebration: Monday, 1st of May 2023
- Significance: The purpose of May Day is to celebrate the historic struggles and achievements of the working class along with the commemoration of the global labour movement.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: This is considered an important day for the political parties as they organize massive rallies to celebrate May Day which is usually held surrounding Colombo. This is a public holiday in Sri Lanka. So, public services and transportation modes don’t work on the day.
Vesak Full Moon Poya Day
Vesak is the most important day of the year in the Buddhist calendar. It is a festival with both religious and cultural values.
- Date of Celebration: Friday, 5th May 2022
- Significance: Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death happened on a Vesak poya day. Apart from that also, there are several important events of Buddhism which happened on this day.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Buddhists gather at temples around the country in remembrance of the sacred life of Lord Buddha. Apart from the religious observances, Buddhists also decorate their houses with Vesak lanterns, lights, and oil lamps. Furthermore, there are huge decorations with lights in the urban areas to celebrate Vesak poya day.
Important Events and Special Days in Sri Lanka in June 2023
June can be considered another important month for Buddhists and Muslims in Sri Lanka. These are the special days in the month of June.
Poson Full Moon Poya Day
Poson is an important poya day with much religious and historical importance.
- Date of Celebration: Saturday, 3rd June 2023
- Significance: Arahat Mahinda introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka on a Poson poya day in the 3rd century BC. King Ashoka of India sent his son, Arahat Mahinda to Sri Lanka with the sacred message of Buddhism. This happened during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Arahat Mahinda arrived at the Missaka Pawwa, also famous as the ‘Mihintale rock’ on his first visit to Sri Lanka. Therefore, the Poson celebrations are mainly held surrounding Anuradhapura and Mihintale areas. Buddhists engage in their religious observances. Further, there are Poson devotional songs, Poson pandols, and almsgiving stalls which are usually held across the country in honor of the Poson festival.
Eid-Al-Adha is popularly known as the Hajj festival and it is the second event of the two main Muslim festivals.
- Date of Celebration: Thursday, 29th June 2023
- Significance: This is also known as the ‘feast of sacrifice’ as it is celebrated for the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son under the command of Allah.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Apart from the religious observances held in the mosque, they also celebrate it together with their families and friends. Furthermore, they engage in several good deeds usually within their community.
Important Events and Special Days in Sri Lanka in July 2023
After a few buzzing months, the number of special events is gradually decreasing when it comes to the second half of the year.
Adhi Esala Full Moon Poya Day
This poya day is the only special day in the month of July 2023. And yes, it is yet another Poya day!
- Date of Celebration: Monday, 3rd July 2023
- Significance: Adhi poya day is celebrated when there is an extra full moon day for the year.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Buddhists visit the temples and perform their religious rituals on this poya day as well.
Important Events and Special Days in Sri Lanka in August 2023
Undoubtedly, the iconic Esala perahera is the highlight of the month. Here is more information on the Esala perahera and the other special days in August.
Esala Full Moon Poya Day
This is also another important poya day for the Buddhists in Sri Lanka.
- Date of Celebration: Tuesday, 1st of August 2023
- Significance: Several important events of Buddhism happened on an Esala poya day such as the conception of Prince Siddhartha in Queen Mahamaya’s womb, the deliverance of the first discourse by Lord Buddha, and the preaching of Dhamma to the five ascetics, etc.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: A significant event that happens on the Esala poya day is the Buddhist monks observing ‘Vas’. It is the annual rain retreat for the monks. Apart from that, Buddhists engage in their religious rituals as usual on this Poya day.
The Grand Procession of Esala Perahera Festival
- Date of Celebration: Tuesday, 1st August 2023
- Significance: This attractive celebration is held in honor of the sacred tooth relic which is placed in the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Esala perahera festival is held for 10 days with grand processions and various religious ceremonies. Randoli Perahera, which is held on the last day, is the most spectacular event of the festival. There are decorated tuskers, drummers, traditional dancers, singers, flag bearers, torch-bearers, and nilames in the Kandy Esala Perahera. This perahera showcases the pride and the grandeur of the rich Sri Lankan culture to the whole world. This event attracts thousands of Sri Lankan pilgrims and tourists from all around the world.
Nikini Full Moon Poya Day
Nikini poya day comes as the second poya day for the month of August 2023.
- Date of Celebration: Wednesday, 30th August 2023
- Significance: Main events which happened on a Nikini poya day are the first Dhamma sangayana which was held after 3 months from Lord Buddha’s parinirvana and the attainment of arhatship by Lord Buddha’s chief disciple, Ananda Thero.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Buddhists visit the temple to practise their religious observances. Furthermore, Buddhist monks can observe ‘Vas’ if they have missed the event on the previous poya day.
Important Events and Special Days in September 2023
There are only a few special days in the month of September. Here is more information on those days.
This is an important and the most popular festival for the Muslim community.
- Date of Celebration: Thursday, 28th September 2023
- Significance: To celebrate the Prophet Muhammed’s birthday.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Muslims follow many festivities such as recitals, family gatherings, and enjoying delicious meals on this special day. However, there are different ways of celebrating the festival within the Muslim community. They visit the mosque and also engage in various charity programs. Muslims celebrate the festival with much respect.
Binara Full Moon Poya Day
This is the poya day for the month of September.
- Date of Celebration: Friday, 29th September 2023
- Significance: Females joined the Buddha sasana for the first time with the permission of Lord Buddha, upon the request of his stepmother, Queen Prajapati on a day like such.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: As usual, Buddhists engage in various religious practices throughout the poya day in Buddhist temples.
Important Events and Special Days in Sri Lanka in October 2022
Poya day is the only special day in the month of October.
Vap Full Moon Poya Day
This is one of the last poya days for the year 2023.
- Date of Celebration: Saturday, 28th October 2023
- Significance: On a Vap poya day, Lord Buddha visited the Tavatimsa to teach Abhidhamma to his mother.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: As this is the ‘Vas’ season, Buddhists attend to the needs of the Buddhist monks who are staying in the temples. They also engage in their usual religious practices.
Important Events and Special Days in November 2023
There are some special days of religious value in the month of November. They are as follows.
Deepavali or the festival of lights is one of the major festivals celebrated by the Hindus in Sri Lanka. It is also well known as ‘Diwali’.
- Date of Celebration: Sunday, 12th November 2023
- Significance: Deepavali is the beginning of the Hindu new year according to the lunar calendar.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Hindus engage in various religious festivities for Deepavali which symbolizes the victory of good over evil and light over darkness. There are many colorful decorations with fireworks and lamps in Hindu households for Deepavali. Furthermore, they exchange traditional sweets and gifts with their family members and friends. Hindus visit the kovil wearing glamorous traditional attire to celebrate this festival.
Ill Full Moon Poya Day
This is the second last poya day for the year 2023.
- Date of Celebration: Sunday, 26th November 2023
- Significance: On an Ill poya day, Lord Buddha obtained vivarana for his enlightenment by the Bodhisattva Maitreya.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: This is the last day of the three-month retreat followed by the Buddhist monks. Buddhists follow their religious observances on this poya day as well.
Important Events and Special Days in Sri Lanka in December 2023
Here comes the most wonderful month of the year which also marks the end of yet another year.
This is the most important festival for Christians all around the world. Sri Lankans also join in to celebrate Christmas with much joy and happiness.
- Date of Celebration: Monday, 25th December 2023
- Significance: To commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: There are midnight mass services in the churches to welcome Christmas. Moreover, on Christmas day, there are joyful celebrations with fireworks, family gatherings, and feasts. All Sri Lankans join hand in hand with the Christian and Catholic communities to celebrate Christmas. Besides, people decorate their houses with Christmas trees and other decorations. And yes, there are vibrant and huge decorations mainly surrounding the urban areas. So, it is indeed a delightful experience to roam around Sri Lanka during the Christmas season. However, at present, Christmas is not just a festival for Christians and Catholics. Other communities also join hand in hand with these celebrations. So, in the present, it has become more of a cultural festival rather than a religious festival in Sri Lanka.
Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day
This is the last poya day of the year.
- Date of Celebration: Tuesday, 26th December 2023
- Significance: Ven. Sangamitta brought a sacred Bo sapling to Sri Lanka on an Unduvap poya day. It is now famous as the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura.
- How Sri Lankans Celebrate: Buddhists engage in their religious activities in the temples on this last poya day of the year as well.
The Bottom Line
So far, you may have noticed that there are so many unique festivals celebrated on the small island of Sri Lanka. And yes, most of them are special festivals where you can get a proper idea of Sri Lankan culture. So, visiting Sri Lanka during these festivities would magnify the delight of your trip. Meanwhile, it will be an amazing experience for a tourist to learn about unique and amazing Sri Lankan traditions through these important days in Sri Lanka as well.
After all, we hope this article helped you to plan your memorable tour in Sri Lanka with convenience. So, spare the days to witness these awesome and important days of Sri Lanka. Happy and safe traveling!