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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for List of Special Holidays in Sri Lanka - Where Island Vibes Abound
Joanna James Joanna James
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List of Special Holidays in Sri Lanka - Where Island Vibes Abound

As an island nation, Sri Lanka takes her holidays very seriously. A nation of varied ethnic groups, the country which respects traditions, culture and religion has many occasions to celebrate.


The Poya Holidays of Sri Lanka

Poya denotes a full moon holiday, which generally falls once a month. Staunchly related to Buddhism, the Poya holidays of Sri Lanka are marked as public, bank and mercantile holidays. It is the holiday of uposatha for Buddhists who following the lunar calendar consider this day the most auspicious amongst all lunar phases. There are on average 13 to 14 poya days per the calendar year, and in Sri Lanka, it is a day of devotion spent in deep meditation at the temple. Shops are closed on poya days while the sale of meat and alcohol is prohibited. If a poya falls on a Friday or Monday, many Sri Lankans make use of the long weekend, if not spent in prayer at the temple, to plan a holiday. Kalutara beach hotels are thus in much demand as it is a lovely resort town close to the commercial capital, Colombo.


Sinhala and Tamil New Year Holidays

This is an ancient Sri Lankan holiday, where Sinhalese and Tamils celebrate a good harvest. Known as Aluth Avurudu, this holiday is when the entire island slips into a laid-back stupor for at least a week. Celebrating the sun gods travels from the house of Pisces to the house of Aries; the festival generally falls on the 13th and 14th of April. At this time there are many traditions and customs which are observed, and for visitors, it is the perfect holiday to observe local rituals, games and indulge in traditional Avurudu food. Many hotels like Turyaa Kalutara that are located in popular tourist destinations, oftentimes let guests be a part of the Sinhala & Tamil New Year festivities and serve traditional sweetmeats.


Ramadan Festival

The Muslim population of Sri Lanka celebrate Ramadan Festival with much pomp and pageantry; it is a holiday to mark the end of the Ramadan fasting season, which falls on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. Fasting ends with the sighting of the new moon, and the following day sees, Muslim devotees, dressed in their best attire, celebrating with family and friends. It is a time when many traditional meals are cooked and the island is given a bank and public holiday. Other holidays Sri Lanka observes in accordance with the Islamic calendar include the Prophet Muhammad's birthday and Hajji Festival. Also known as Eid, this festival celebrates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac to God.


The Holy Week

As a nation home to a large Christian community, Sri Lanka celebrates the holy week by making Good Friday a public holiday. Those in the Mercantile sector are given a portion of the day off to observe mass; while Easter Sunday is a grand holiday, with many city hotels offering Easter brunch and other Easter Festivities.


Christmas Holidays

Christmas is one of the nation's biggest holidays, with those of varied faiths getting caught up in the thrills of this much loved holiday. The island celebrates Christmas by declaring 25th December a civil and bank holiday, while many firms decide to close from 24th December to Boxing Day on 26th December.