Sri Lanka have different religions, which have different celebrations throughout the year. Sri Lanka also have a poya day which will always fall upon a full moon. Each full moon (Poya) is different and is normally once a month. A poya day is always a bank holiday in which everything is closed. On these days you are forbidden to eat meat, drink alcohol, or gamble.
Meaning of poya: Approximately at the same time each month, there is a full moon, this is called poya day in Sri Lanka. In ancient times when calendars where unavailable, they used the full moon as a calendar for the passing months.
The following are the festivals celebrated in and around Sri Lanka:
• January – Duruthu Poya – This is the celebration of Lord Buddha’s first of three visits to Sri Lanka after his enlightenment. This is celebrated with a Perahera (procession) at Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara temple in Colombo. Many devotee Buddhists will also celebrate by climbing to the summit of Samanala Mountain (Adam’s Peak) to worship the sacred footprint which was imprinted into the rock by Lord Buddha.
Thai Pongal – A Hindu celebration in honour of sun god Surya which is an important celebration for the Tamil Sri Lankans and south Indians.
• February – Navam Poya – This is a celebration of Lord Buddha appointing 2 chief disciples and the first ever Buddhist Council held following the death of Lord Buddha. The biggest Navam perahera is celebrated at Gangaramaya Temple.
• March – Medin Poya – Is Buddha first visit back to his hometown following his enlightenment.Maha Sivarathri – A Hindu festival commemorates the marriage between Shiva and Parvati. This is the most important day for the majority of Sri Lankan Hindus, the celebrations consist of all-night vigils and more.
• April –Good Friday – Christian Sri Lankans celebrate Good Friday, many of them will attend church for a service in memory of Jesus Christ.
Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations – Sinhala and Tamil new year celebrations always fall on the 14th April annually. The celebrations bring prosperity, for more information then click here to visit our blog on Sinhala and Tamil New Year Celebrations
Bak Poya – Lord Buddha visited Sri Lanka for the second time after enlightenment.
• May – Wesak – Wesak is the celebration of the life, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha, or the celebration of light. To find out more, click here to read our blog on Wesak.
• June – Poson Poya – Is when Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka, the celebrations mainly are held in Anuradhapura in the temple, where devotees will give an offering in the form of flowers and incense.
Ramadan – Brings an end to the Islamic holy month of fasting which is celebrated on Eid. There is a small population of Sri Lankan’s who are Muslim, but many will celebrate Ramadan.
• July – Vel – This is celebrated in Colombo and Jaffna. In Colombo, a chariot which represents the god of war is hauled from Pettah to Bambalapitiya, and in Jaffna, a 25 day festival at Kandaswamy Kovil is held.
Kataragama – This Hindu festival in which devotees put themselves through rituals which commemorate the triumph of the 6 faced 12 armed war god over demons.
• August – Esala Perahera – The Kandy perahara in which Lord Buddha tooth relic proceeds down the street with dancers and drummers.
Nikini Poya – Buddhist devotees visit temples to give offerings of flowers and engage in religious activities.
• September – Hajj – Sri Lankan Muslims will visit a Mosque to listen to sermons, before dressing in new clothes and visiting family members and friends. It is also common to find many families giving money to poorer families within the community, this seen as a good deed.
Binnara Poya – This is a chance to witness Mahiyangana Perahera. This is slightly different perahera, as the Veddha people will perform their traditional dance.
• October – Deepavali – A Hindu celebration of light, this signifies light over darkness and good over evil.
Vap Poya – Devotees will visit the temple to give offering and follow religious rituals.
• November – Il Poya – Il Poya signifies the death of one of Buddha’s chief disciples.
• December – Christmas – Is celebrated by Christians in Sri Lanka, this is a celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth.
Unduvap Poya – Unduvap Poya commemorates when a cutting of the sacred Bodi tree was brought to Sri Lanka and planted in Anuradhapura.
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