Sri Lankan Festive Culture
Sri Lanka boasts a wonderfully rich mix of religions and cultures, home to four main religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity together they make for an eventful festival calendar. This means there are a lot of public holidays each year!
We’ve looked at some of the most important and given ideas on trips that combine well to experience them.
VESAK POYA – FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
Vesak Poya is the most important ‘full moon’ day of the year for Buddhists who celebrate Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away. The Vesak festival takes over the city and most of the island, is lit up by flickering oil lamps, intricate Vesak paper lanterns and colourful illuminated pictures hanging in the streets. People hand out food and drink to passers-by on the streets during Vesak celebrations.
Kandy Perahera, is the day that celebrates the arrival of the Lord Buddha’s tooth relic to the famous Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka. The festival usually takes place in July or August and runs for 10 days. The experience of this 10 days celebration in Kandy is unbeatable with dressed elephants, dancers, 100’s of drummers, rituals and more. One of the best celebrations in Asia never to miss.
In honor of the god Skanda, devotees from different faiths take part in a festival procession traveling through the town of Kataragama. Sri Lanka’s most visually striking procession usually takes place in July or August and runs for two weeks, you can see the devotees perform dance, music, fire-walking and acrobatics. The sometimes-shocking ritual of hanging from pierced skin can also be seen.
SINHALA AND TAMIL NEW YEAR
It usually takes place sometime in April, marks the beginning of the Lunar year. This is a festival celebrated by the entire population. Traditionally the New Year has been a harvest festival, celebrated with grand feasting everywhere in Sri Lanka. Special food items and sweetmeats are prepared. Milk Rice, prepared with the rice from the new crop is the most popular dish prepared during the New Year. New Year meal is cooked and served at an auspicious time. Traditional customs are observed on this day with great fun and lavish hospitality.