Important Dates

Sri Lanka celebrates several Public, Bank and Mercantile holidays throughout the year, many of which are ‘dry days’ where no alcoholic beverages are sold. If your clients wish to consume alcohol on a dry day, our chauffeur-guides will assist them with buying alcohol in advance.

Name of the Holiday
Date
Description

Thai Pongal Day

15th January 2024 (Monday)

Falls in the tenth month in the Tamil Calendar, Thai Pongal is a traditional harvest observed by all Tamils and Hindus. It is held to thank the Sun God, Earth and Rain God and other natural elements and cattle for a good harvest. This day is the Tamil equivalent to Thanksgiving celebrated in the United States, Canada Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia. The word ‘Thai’ is referred to the 10th month in the calendar and ‘pongu’ is the act of boiling over a pot of rice; ‘Pongal is the name of a sweetened dish of rice boiled in milk and jaggery that is ritually consumed on this day.

 

Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day

25th January 2024 (Thursday)

Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day marks Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka, nine months after the Enlightenment. It is said that this first visit to Sri Lanka was to solve a confrontation between the Yaksha and Naga tribes.

Name of the Holiday
Date
Description

Independence Day

04th February 2024
(Sunday)

Sri Lanka achieved independence from British rule on 4th February 1948, although it was not until 1972 that ‘Ceylon’ became known as the ‘Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka’. 4th February is given as a national holiday each year and citizens across the island still celebrate Sri Lanka’s independence. The largest celebration is a grand parade through the streets of Colombo, featuring the country’s military, followed by the national anthem sung in both Sinhalese and Tamil.

 

Navam Full Moon Poya Day

23rd February 2024
(Friday)

Navam Poya Day marks the day when the first Buddhist council met to hear Lord Buddha teach the fundamental code of ethics for Buddhist monks. It was also the day when Arahant Sariputta and Arahant Moggallana were appointed as the Buddha’s chief disciples. There is an exciting Perahera procession in Colombo to celebrate Navam, centred around Gangaramaya Temple and the beautiful Beira Lake.

Name of the Holiday
Date
Description

Mahasivarathri Day

8th March 2024
(Friday)

Maha Shivaratri is a famous Hindu festival celebrated each year in reverence of Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and regeneration. Maha Shivratri is observed to mark a remembrance of ‘overcoming darkness and ignorance’ in life and the world. Unlike most festivals, is celebrated at night and is a solemn event and it commemorates several legends related to Shiva, demonstrating both his strength and merciful manner.

Medin Full Moon Poya Day

24th March 2024
(Sunday)

Medin Poya Day celebrates the first time Lord Buddha returned to his father’s kingdom after leaving his palace home in search of truth. On this day, devotees clad in white go to temples across the country to pay homage to Buddha, offering flowers, light small clay lamps and incense.

Good Friday

29th March 2024
(Friday)

The annual commemoration of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, known as ‘Good Friday,’ is a significant festival celebrated by not only Christians in Sri Lanka, but by Christians across the world with great humility and reverence.

Name of the Holiday
Date
Description

Eid Ul-Fitr (Ramazan)

10th April 2024
(Wednesday)

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the month-long fast observed by Muslims for Ramadan. Upon seeing the half-moon, the end of the fasting period will be declared. The day after sighting the moon, Muslims pray before feasting on a lavish breakfast. Family, neighbours and friends get together to share the joy of Ramazan and often enjoy festive treats together.

Day prior to Sinhala & Tamil New Year Day

12th April 2024
(Friday)

Regarded as the last day of the old year, the Sinhalese and Tamil communities across the island prepare to welcome the new year. On this day, people clean their homes, shop to buy new clothes and make special festive sweetmeats, and also have a traditional bath so that they enter the new year cleansed.

Sinhala & Tamil New Year Day

13th April 2024
(Saturday)

Sinhala and Tamil New Year is marked by the transition of the sun from the House of Pisces to the House of Aries. At this auspicious time, families clad in new clothes gather to boil a pot of milk, symbolising prosperity. The lighting of a traditional oil lamp, preparation of sweetmeats and first meal of the year are also done at auspicious times. Many colourful rituals and traditions are performed to bestow good fortune and health in the new ye

Bak Full Moon Poya Day

23rd April 2024
(Tuesday)

Bak Poya Day marks the Buddha’s second visit to Sri Lanka. The purpose of his visit was to bring peace to the kingdom of Nagadeepa (Jaffna) where two kings were battling over a bejewelled throne. On this day, Buddhists travel to the Nagadeepa Rajamaha Viharaya in Jaffna to pay homage and celebrate peace.

Name of the Holiday
Date
Description

May Day

01st May 2024
(Wednesday)

Also known as Labour Day, this celebration takes place every 1st of May to honour the workers. In Sri Lanka, workers and political leaders take to the streets in Colombo and its suburbs, carrying banners and chanting political slogans. These rallies are all peaceful, the largest usually taking place in the centre of Colombo.

Vesak Full Moon Poya Day

23rd May 2024
(Thursday)

A celebration of peace and illumination, Vesak commemorates the birth, enlightenment and parinibbana (passing away) of the Buddha. It is the most important Poya day in the Buddhist calendar, and is celebrated across the island through a festival of lights. The streets are adorned with beautiful glowing lanterns and grand pandols which depict the jataka (stories on the previous births of the Buddha). Clad in white, Buddhists visit their local temples and observe ata sil (eight precepts). Dansalas (temporary alms stalls) serving free food and beverages as a charitable act are commonplace across the island.

Day following Vesak Full Moon Poya Day

24th May 2024
(Friday)

Although on this day Buddhists engage in religious activities, everyone in Sri Lanka enjoys the magic of Vesak, whatever their faith. People wander the streets to admire the beautiful Vesak pandols, and bask in the carnival-like atmosphere as dusk falls. Visiting the dansalas (temporary alms stalls) is part of the night’s light-hearted camaraderie.

Name of the Holiday
Date
Description

Eid Ul-Adha (Hajji)

17th June 2024
(Monday)

Eid al-Adha remembers the willingness of Ibrahim (also known as Abraham) to sacrifice his son for the sake of Allah (God). Muslims across Sri Lanka celebrate the festival with religious observation and fellowship. Their festivities begin with a special sermon at 6am at the mosque, followed by the sharing festive food like biryani and watalappan and visits to friends and relatives. Devotees also donate money and meals to the poor.

Poson Full Moon Poya Day

21st June 2024
(Friday)

The second most important Poya in the Buddhist calendar, Poson Poya marks the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka over 2,000 years ago. It is believed that the great Arahant (disciple) from India, sent by Indian Emperor Ashoka, preached the Dhamma to the ruling King Devanampiyatissa at Mihintale in the Cultural Triangle, and many devotees now make the pilgrimage to Mihintale to celebrate this full moon day. Across the island, Buddhists observe sil during the day, while aloka pooja (light offerings) are held at night.

Name of the Holiday
Date
Description

Esala Full Moon Poya Day

20th July 2024
(Saturday)

Esala is a very important day in Sri Lanka. It marks the decision of Prince Siddhartha (Lord Buddha) to renounce his royal heritage and leave in search of ‘truth’, and celebrates the birth of his son Prince Rahula. It is also said that, having attained enlightenment, Lord Buddha preached his first sermon on this day. This is all celebrated with the Esala Perahera, the most magnificent cultural pageant in Sri Lanka which is held in Kandy at this time each year. Vibrant processions featuring caparisoned elephants, fire breathers, drummers and costumed dancers run for two weeks, and the tooth relic that is believed to have belonged to Lord Buddha is removed from the Temple of the Tooth and paraded through the city streets on the back of a towering tusker elephant.

Name of the Holiday
Date
Description

Nikini Full Moon Poya Day

19th August 2024
(Monday)

It was on Nikini Poya day that the very first Dhamma Sanghayana (Buddhist convocation) was held in India, attended by five hundred arahant monks (disciples). On this day, devotees clad in white go to temples across the island to pay homage to the Buddha and observe sil (precepts).

Name of the Holiday
Date
Description

Milad un-Nabi

16th September 2024
(Monday)

Celebrated by the Muslim community all over the island, Milad Un Nabi marks the birth of the Prophet Mohammad. This is a day dedicated to recitals, elaborate meals and family gatherings in honour of the Prophet. In the evening, special sermons and prayers are conducted at mosques before a lavish feast is held with friends and family.

Binara Full Moon Poya Day

17th September 2024
(Tuesday)

It was on this day that the order of Buddhist nuns (Bhikkuni) was established following the request of Maha Prajapathi Gothami and 500 women. On this day, devotees clad in white go to temples across the island to pay homage to the Buddha. They offer flowers, light small clay lamps and burn incense.

Name of the Holiday
Date
Description

Vap Full Moon Poya Day

17th October 2024
(Thursday)

In Sri Lanka, the Vap Full Moon Poya is celebrated on the day of the full moon of Vap, the seventh month of the Sinhalese calendar Vap Poya Is Significant Due To The Many Historical Events That Took Place On This Full Moon Day. The festival Marks Buddha’s preaching of Abhidamma to the gods in Tavatimsa and the end of the Buddhist period of fasting. Sri Lankan Buddhists, also commemorate on this day important events in relation to the establishment of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Deepavali

31st October 2024
(Thursday)

Celebrated by the Hindus in Sri Lanka during October / November, Deepavali, also known as Diwali is a national holiday in Sri Lanka which marks the beginning of the Hindu year as per the Lunar Calendar. This festival of lights symbolizes warding off darkness and shadows from one’s life.

Name of the Holiday
Date
Description

Il Full Moon Poya Day

26th November 2023
(Sunday)

The foundation stone for the ancient Thuparama stupa in Anuradhapura was laid on this Poya day. In commemoration of this landmark event, Sri Lankan Buddhists travel to Thuparamaya to offer flowers and reflect on the teachings of the Buddha. This Poya day also marks the first missionary activity undertaken by the six arahants (disciples) of Buddhism.

Name of the Holiday
Date
Description

Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day

14th December 2024
(Saturday)

The Unduvap Poya day marks the arrival of the sapling from the sacred Indian Sri Maha Bodhi to Sri Lanka, and its planting in Anuradhapura. This is the last full moon Poya day of the year, and marks the beginning of the pilgrimage season to Sri Pada or Adam’s Peak. The Sri Maha Bodhi temple in Anuradhapura where the sacred tree stands draws thousands of Buddhist devotees on this day each year.

Christmas Day

25th December 2024
(Wednesday)

Christmas Day commemorates the birth of Christ and is celebrated by all Sri Lankans, regardless of their religion. As the seasonal excitement sweeps the island, celestial melodies of carol services echo through the island and homes and shops are decorated with lights and ornaments. Midnight masses are held on Christmas Eve in churches across the island. This is one of the most colourful festive seasons in Sri Lanka and is enjoyed by all.

Note:
Christmas Day: Licensed hotels and restaurants are able to serve liquor but please note that liquor shops and some bars and establishments may be closed.

On some occasions where a holiday is on a weekend, the government may declare a Public Holiday which will also be a dry day, without prior notice. The government of Sri Lanka reserves the right to declare a Dry Day as they see fit. Dates are subject to change.

Please note that while some hotels have complete liquor license to sell all types of alcohol, some have partial liquor license in which they can only sell beer and wine and other hotels may not have a license. To find out more details about the liquor policy at your hotel please contact your TFG CONTACT.