Main Cultures and Traditions


Kumar Sangakkara quote
The Sri Lankan Spirit


Although the official religion in Sri Lanka is Buddhism, every religion is celebrated and holidays are given for each!!!

Full Moon Days of Buddhism

The Birth, Enlightenment and Passing of Lord Buddha all coincidentally occurred on the full moon days of May throughout his lifetime. Thus by far, the most important religious holiday in Sri Lanka is Vesak Day in May to pay homage to Lord Buddha. Vesak Day brings all Sri Lankan Buddhists to the temples with  the streets decorated with lanterns.  Peraheras (parades) proudly march down whilst displaying an amazing show of dancers, drummers, conch shell players, flag bearers, fire dancers, whip crackers and elephants. Every Buddhist kitchen across Sri Lanka makes the staple Buddhist dishes of Kiri BathKavumKokis and many other delicious traditional foods.

More so, every full moon day also signifies an important event in the history of Buddhism, thus every full moon day is a holiday used to commemorate Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Perahera – Drummers followed by an elephant convoy
Perahera - Fire Dancers
Perahera –  The Fire Dancers

Each full moon represents a major Buddhist event:

Month Name Meaning
January Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day (Signifies the Lord Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka to settle a dispute between Yakkas and Nagas)


Navam Full Moon Poya Day

The Navam full moon Poya day celebrates the appointment of Buddha’s two chief disciples and the first-ever Buddhist Council held after the passing away of Lord Buddha)
March Madin Full Moon Poya Day (Celebration of Lord Buddha’s visit to his hometown Kapilavastu)
April Bak Full Moon Poya Day (Bak Full moon Poya Day celebrates Lord Buddha’s second visit to Sri Lanka to make peace between two warring local chiefs, who were also uncle and nephew)


Vesak Full Moon Poya Day

(Commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Gautama Buddha and is celebrated in its full glory in Sri Lanka)
June Poson Full Moon Poya Day (Commemorates the arrival of Buddhism to Sri Lanka from India and is celebrated as widely and as grandly as Vesak itself)
July Esala Full Moon Poya Day (Celebrates the delivery of Lord Buddha’s first discourse ‘Dhammacakkappavattana Sutra’ to five disciples at the deer park of Isipathana and commencement of Vas or Rainy Season retreat for Bikkhus)


Nikini Full Moon Poya Day

(The historic Kandy Esala Perahara ends on this day while Seruwila Raja Maha Viharaya and Bellanwila Raja Maha Vihara annual Perahera are held during the month of Nikini)
September Binara Full Moon Poya Day (The Buddhist Bikkhuni Order was established on a Binara Full moon Poya day)
October Vap Full Moon Poya Day (Marks Buddha’s preaching of Abhidamma to the gods in Tavatimsa and the end of the Buddhist period of fasting)
November Ill Full Moon Poya Day (Commemorates Buddha’s ordination of sixty disciples as the first missionaries)
December Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day (Celebrates the arrival of the Bo tree sapling in Anuradhapura, brought by Ashoka’s daughter, Sangamitta)

Table source: LINK

Sinhala and Tamil New Year (April 13th or 14th)

The New Year is based on astrology when Pisces star-sign transition to Aries and marks the end of the harvest season. It also coincides with one of two occasions when the sun is directly over Sri Lanka.

One this day many new years games are played at festivals. Presents are exchanged between family and lots of traditional Sri Lankan meals are enjoyed. It is also a day to pay thanks to the elders in the family.

Sri Lankan New Year
Sri Lankan New Year


Thai Pongal Day (January 13-16th)

A four day long celebration of the Hindu Tamil Harvest.

Sri Lankan Hindus Celebrating Thai Pongal
Sri Lankan Hindus Celebrating Thai Pongal



Id-Ul-Fitr (Ramadan Festival Day- July)

This is an Islamic religious festival celebrating the end of the 29 -30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting during the entire month of Ramadan.

Sri Lankan Muslim
Sri Lankan Muslims showing their Sri Lankan pride

Christmas Day (December 25th)

Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Jesus and is celebrated  by over 2 billion people globally.


Sri Lankan Christians
Sri Lankan Christians praying