January - Thai Pongal
Every January, around the 14th or 15th, the island celebrates harvest with a spectacular array of singing and dancing throughout the night, alongside fireworks and fun-filled activities for all to partake in.
February - National Day
February welcomes even more celebrations, this time steering away from religion. This month sees the island celebrate its independence with a hoard of fun-filled parades, national dances and games across every city in Sri Lanka.
March - Sri Lankan Balloon Festival
With over 100 participants, this family event has been running since 2003. Although it’s not been around very long the event is now one of the island’s most popular, as the sky is filled with colourful hot air balloons, and the ground has a number of fun-filled celebrations.
April - New Year
During the month of April the Sinhalese and Tamil cultures celebrate New Year, making it an excellent time to visit. With an array of unique events such as elephant races and coconut games taking place, this is a great time of year to fully experience the island’s culture.
May - Vesak
Taking place on the full moon, the entire island comes together to light up the night skies with colourful light displays and bamboo lanterns. This is to honour the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. It is a great opportunity to celebrate one of the island’s many religious traditions.
June - Poson Festival
Another religiously inspired event, the Poson Festival is used to commemorate the birth of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. On this day you’ll see the entire country come together to celebrate, where many will reflect at a temple with meditation, and many celebrate at Mihintale; where Buddhism is said to have been declared the state religion.
July - Kataragama Festival
During the full moon of July, the mesmerising Kataragama Festival takes place, and it’s a spectacle that shouldn’t be missed by anyone. During the festival the sacred jungle shrine of Kataragama explodes with fascinating sounds and colours, along with dancing and displays like fire walking, as the Esala Perahara is held for two weeks to celebrate the God Skandha.
August - Elephant Gathering in Minneriya National Park
As water is scarce between the months of July and October, around 300 Asian elephants migrate to the Minneriya National Park; which is the largest elephant gathering in the world at this time. This is a great opportunity to see the stunning animals in the wild; the event has been declared the ‘sixth greatest wildlife spectacle in the world’ by Lonely Planet.
September - Bingra Full Moon Poya Day
Although there are many Poya days in this culturally religious country, September’s is one of the most important. On this national holiday Buddhists remember the basic tenets of the Buddhist faith and the struggle of Queen Mahapajapati and the first Bhikkhunis. Celebrations take place throughout the island, giving travellers ample opportunity to witness traditional Sri Lankan values.
October – November – The Hindu Festival Deepavali
To celebrate the triumph of good over evil, the Hindu Festival of Lights is a religious and communal festival, which sees prayers offered to the goddess Lakshmi for renewed health, wealth and prosperity. The festival sees delicious sweets distributed, illuminations, the making of figurines, visiting families and burning firecrackers, which is open to all.
December - Unduvap
Just before Christmas you’ll find the final Buddhist festival of the year; the Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day. The whole island celebrates once again, as this day honouring the Buddha see many take part in rituals and ceremonies in various temples, which occurs alongside colourful pageants throughout the event.