Holidays of Sri Lanka

Festivals and holidays of Sri Lanka are so colorful, exotic, bright and unique, that to read about them is just to try to imagine a picture of what is happening during this or that event. In reality, Sri Lankans are so skilled craftsmen to organize holidays, that you should definitely visit at least one of them during your travel to Sri Lanka. None of the festivities or festive rituals will not leave you indifferent, but leave a deep and indelible mark of colorful memories of the island of wonders for years to come. The Lankarus team just tried to compile a brief overview of the most significant days in the annual Sri Lankan calendar.

Thai Pongal
Thai Pongal or Pongal is a harvest festival that is celebrated in Sri Lanka at the end of the harvest season. This is one of the most important holidays celebrated by the Tamils of the country. On this day Tamil peasants honor the Sun God Suryapakarana.This occurs when the sun enters the sign of the zodiac of Capricorn (Makara).
The Pongal Festival is celebrated in Sri Lanka for two days. On the first day in the morning, everyone gets up early, washed and put on clean clothes. On that day, it is necessary to visit the temple and pray. The first day is devoted to the ritual of boiling milk in a pot, to which rice, palm syrup and syrup are added, which is extracted from crushed sugar cane. This sweet rice pudding is offered first to the God of the Sun, and then eaten in the midst of a family festive meal. In the center of the garden, as a version of the celebration, a place is prepared for the preparation of puddings with the addition of palm sugar, milk, lentils, cashew nuts and a couple of cardamom pods. The head of the family leads the process, all the others help him. When the dish is ready, the first portion is put on a banana leaf and makes a prayer in gratitude to nature. Pongal pudding with bananas and mango is served. Usually the dish is shared with neighbors, friends and relatives. Pongal symbolizes fertility and goodness.
The second day is dedicated to bulls who are helping farmers in rice fields. This day is called Mattu Pongal (day of cattle). The animals are washed, bathed and decorated with garlands of straw on their necks and horns.
According to the legend, Lord Shiva once sent to Earth his bull named Nandi and instructed him to give the people a covenant: take an oil bath daily, and eat only once a month. But the bull confused everything. Then the angry Shiva sent a bull to help people to cultivate fields and harvest, since they now need to eat more. So they began to honor the bulls, as the main assistants in the hard work of the peasants.
Thai Pongal symbolizes love and peace, freedom and unity of people. On this day you need to forgive the abusers, forget the enmity and unite, visit your relatives and friends.

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Milad-Un-Nabi (Mawlid)
The birthday of the Holy Prophet Muhammad is celebrated by Muslims around the world on this day, including the Muslim communities of Sri Lanka. During the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, and in the first few centuries after his death, His Birthday was not celebrated. But later this tradition took root in the Islamic society, thanks to its introduction by the ruler in Syria of Irbil in the 12th century according to the Gregorian calendar.

Poya Day
Such a sacred day falls on every month of the year. Alternately every month, it is customary to celebrate the following days of Poya: Duruthu Poya, Navam Poya, Medin Poya, Bak Poya, Vesak Poya, Poson Poya, Esala Poya, Nikini Poya, Binara Poya, Vap Poya, Ill Poya, Unduvap Poya. If there are two Poya days in the month, then the name of the second will be preceded by the word Adhi (in Sinhalese: half), for example, Adhi Vesak, Adhi Poson, etc.
Every day of the full moon once a month is a public holiday in Sri Lanka. Each of the full moons, as you have noticed, has its own name, because they are given to mark key events in Buddhism.
These days of events, one way or another, are tied to the full moons known as Poya. Dates of Poya are changed every year, and some dates of Poya can be assigned either before or after the night of the full moon.

National Day / Independence Day
The Independence Day of Sri Lanka is celebrated on February 4, each year. In Sri Lanka, this great national occasion is celebrated by parades and events combined with a true spirit of patriotism and national pride. The national day is celebrated with official ceremonies and mandatory military parades. The main celebrations are held in the largest city of Colombo, where the president raises the national flag and makes a speech, which is broadcast on national television. Undoubtedly solemn and proud of the country is the national anthem. And just as surely officials and clergymen are lighting a traditional lamp. After the solemn part, various cultural programs and folk festivities follow.
This holiday is always celebrated on February 4, which, first of all, marks the day when Sri Lanka gained independence from British rule on February 4, 1948. In addition, on this day, recall all the fighters for the independence of Sri Lanka from different regimes, and not just from the British.
The island is well remembered and honored history. When the Europeans first began to come to the region for trade and imperial expansion, Sri Lanka became an attractive acquisition, given its location and geography.
The Portuguese were the first to make the first serious attempt at colonization in the 16th century. About a century later, the island was the desired prey of the Dutch, which led to clashes between the Portuguese and the Dutch.
On February 4, 1948, British Ceylon gained independence, like Ceylon and out of the reign of the British Empire. Don Stephen Senanayake became the first prime minister of the new free state.
In 1972, Ceylon changed its name to the historically correct — Sri Lanka. The country became a republic within the framework of the Commonwealth.

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Sri Lankan Hindus celebrate the annual Mahashivarathri Festival with fasting all day long and holding a vigil night in Hindu temples around the island. Shivaratri symbolizes the rebirth of the human soul, which merges into a single whole with the divine. The festival is celebrated during the Tamil month of Maasi, which lasts from mid-February to mid-March.
Mahashivaratri is a famous Hindu festival that is celebrated every year in honor of the worship of Lord Shiva. The name Mahashivaratri from Sanskrit is translated as «Great Night of Shiva.»
Shivaratri is the night when Shiva performed his divine dance of Tandav Nritya, or the dance of creation, preservation and destruction of the World. Tandav Nritya — one of the most common stories, which is imprinted in Hindu statues of Shiva.
Shivarathri is also marked by such an event as the day when the Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva were married. Mahashivaratri has special meaning for women who come to ask Parvati on this day (after all, husband of Parvati Shiva is considered the ideal husband) to give them a successful marriage and beautiful children, as well as family well-being and prosperity. Shivarathri is celebrated on the 13th day of Phalgun according to the Hindu calendar.
Shiva is revered in the form of a lingam — it is often placed on a vessel that embodies female creative energy. Together this represents both the union of organs and the totality of creation. Flowers, incense and other offerings accompany the ceremony of veneration, while throughout the day the devotees chant the sacred mantra panchakshara Om Namah Shivaya, dedicated to Lord Shiva.

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Good Friday
Like the rest of the world, the Christian community of Sri Lanka observes Good Friday. On this day, Jesus Christ was crucified, and his atoning sacrifice is commemorated by all Christians. Services for the Good Friday are held in the Christian churches throughout the island.
The most important event in Christianity is death, and then the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which, as Christians believe is the Son of God, and whose life and teaching are the foundation of Christianity.
Good Friday takes place on Friday before Easter. The next day in memory of the crucifixion of Jesus. Good Friday is a day of mourning. During the special mass on Friday, Christians recall the sufferings of Jesus, his death on the cross, and reflect on what this means for their faith. In some countries there are special processions Good Friday, or again the acts of the Crucifixion.
Undoubtedly, most Christians perceive this day as auspicious and significant, because the message of the Passover of Christ after Friday informs about the victory over sin, death and the devil.

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Sinhala and Tamil New Year
In Sri Lanka, the Sinhala New Year, in fact — not only Sinhalese, but also Tamil. The time of the Sinhalese New Year coincides with the celebration of the New Year in many traditional calendars of South and South-East Asia. In Sinhalese the holiday is called Aluth Awuruddu. The festival has close resemblance to the Tamil New Year. In Sinhalese astrology, the New Year begins when the sun passes from the zodiacal sign of Mina Rashiya (House of Pisces) to Meshi Rashiya (House of Aries). It also marks the end of the harvest and the beginning of spring.
According to the legend of the Intraveda, the prince of the world, he came to Earth on this day to give all people peace and happiness. He appeared from the milk ocean of Kiri Mahasamudraya, breaking all the laws of gravity, on a white horse and with a wreath of white flowers on his head. In this astronomical time you can hear the singing of Koha birds, who sing only once a year during the New Year.
Before the holiday in all houses there is cleaning, washing, decoration of dwellings. From the kitchens of the whole country comes the aroma of New Year's dishes.
New Year in Sri Lanka begins strictly according to the calculations of astrologers. They also predict the end of the old year. And the time between the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one can be several hours and is called the Nonagathaya (Non movements period). Symbolically, people are in a temporary vacuum. This transit period in the planetary movement is considered unfavorable for the commencement of any activity. At this time, you need to refrain from work, you can not eat, drink, take a bath, and focus only on meditation and religious rites.
Astrologers also predict when to light the first fire, make the first deal, prepare the first Milk Rice (Kiribath) in the new year, and even eat the first piece of food. All that is done during the New Year on the predictions of astrologers, be sure to bear fruit, because this is the most favorable time for any undertaking, committed at the right time.
An obligatory tradition of the holiday is to honor the elders and strengthen relations with neighbors. After all, trust, love, friendship and understanding play an important role in achieving mental, physical and psychicall well-being. Traditionally, people exchange small bundles of betel leaves. Betel is a plant that cleanses the body, it helps strengthen the gums, relieves bad breath, promotes better digestion, kills pathogenic bacteria. The older generation, blessing their heirs, smears their heads with oil, reading blessing mantras, which brings good luck in business.

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May Day
On May 1, Sri Lanka has a governmental and festive day. The government organizes an official May holiday in major cities, with an emphasis on the celebrations in Colombo. During the celebrations, government officials take to the streets to appear to their citizens and voters. Civil servants often carry placards with slogans, and representatives of political parties decorate their cars.
Usually on May 1 each party tries to gather its supporters and hold a rally or declare again about their rights and program intentions. A small demonstration usually takes place before the rally. Most of the celebrations are attended by the most influential and numerous party organizations and the workers' associations that joined them.

Id-ul-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. Thousands of Islamic devotees from Sri Lanka gather in the Faise Greene area in Colombo to attend a festive prayer on the occasion of the end of the holy month of Ramadan. After the prayer, people also visit their relatives, friends and acquaintances, and some people make funeral trips to the cemeteries to their deceased relatives.

Eid-ul-Adha is also known as the Hajj festival and the festival of sacrifice. This is a public and significant holiday in Sri Lanka, and the day of celebration is non-working. Muslims all over the country celebrate this holy day. It falls on the calendar about 70 days after Id-ul-Fitr (the end of Ramadan), and is also celebrated in honor of the prophet Abraham, who expressed his willingness to sacrifice his son as evidence of his love for the Almighty. Celebration includes presenting gifts in the form of animals, the meat of which is shared between all members of the family, friends, and the remnants are given to the needy.
According to legend 4 thousand years ago the prophet Ibrahim was instructed by his god to deliver his wife Sarah, the servant Hagar and the only son of Ismahil from Palestine in a deserted desert and set them there. Despite the fact that he left a lot of food and water, stocks quickly ran out, and three unhappy people felt hungry and thirsty. Hagar, who made seven ascents and descents between the mountains of al-Safa and al-Marwa in prayer to give them water, exhausted, fell down next to Ismail and began to pray to the Lord for mercy. Miraculously, at the feet of the child the source was hammered. The source of Zamzam allowed not only to quench thirst, but also gave the opportunity to sell water to passing nomads. A year later, Ibrahim was instructed by God to return for his family and found it surprisingly prosperous.
Ibrahim, at the behest of God, built a temple next to the source. Together with his son Ismail they built a stone and stupa, known as Kaba, designed to gather around him all who wanted to believe or strengthen their faith in God. Through many centuries, Mecca has become a thriving desert city and the center of commerce, thanks to the beating source of fresh water Zamzam.
During the Hajj, men who make pilgrimage should be dressed in only two pieces of raw white material, one of which closes the torso and the other is girdled with a sash. Completes this attire pair of simple sandals.

Deepawali is mostly marked by Sri Lankan Tamils. The festival is also called the Festival of Lights. The holiday symbolizes the victory of good forces over evil. Lamps are an integral symbol of this holiday, as a hope for a bright and prosperous future. Fireworks adds brightness and color to the aura of the festival. Since Sri Lankan Hindus (mainly Tamils) originate mainly from South India, the Festival of Lights, known as Deepawali, arrived in Sri Lanka along with carriers of traditions and customs.
Deepawali (from Sanskrit: dipa — lamp, wali — massif) is noted in India and Sri Lanka in other Asian countries, such as Malaysia and Singapore. In North India, it is better known as Diwali, but in essence, this is the same holiday.
For Hindus around the world, celebration symbolizes the triumph of good over evil, purity over impurities of mud, light over darkness. This is one of the most important Hindu festivals. Diwali marks the return of Lord Rama, who was the seventh incarnation of Vishnu, from the fourteen-year-old exile.
The Festival of Lights takes place in the dark, on the first night of the new moon of Kartika on the Hindu calendar. Throughout Sri Lanka, the streets and temples are decorated with magnificent lights, electric and colorful flower garlands. In houses, people light small oil lamps, called Diya. It is believed that the relatives of the deceased return to visit their families on Earth during this festival, and lights are a way to guide souls and spirits home. The sound of firecrackers exploding everywhere, just deafening, but, it is believed, it drives away evil spirits.
Families, friends and business partners exchange gifts and sweets, try to complete old business deals and encourage each other to get rid of hatred, anger and envy. The festival becomes a time of joy and renewal.

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On December 25, celebration of the Lord Jesus Christ birth is a festive day for people of all concessions in Sri Lanka. At midnight on December 24, cathedrals, churches, chapels and small parishes across the country convene Christians to participate in the midnight mass. Sri Lankans, regardless of religious beliefs, find Christmas as a good time to share good wishes, good deeds, love and compassion in hearts to others. Christians invite relatives and friends to their Christmas parties and share cakes, wine and other Christmas meals with them in honor of the celebration.
Christmas was first celebrated in Sri Lanka at a time when the island was a colony of Portugal from 16 to the middle of the 17th century. This tradition was continued by the Dutch and the British, who alternately conquered Sri Lanka.
Now the holiday is celebrated in all corners of the country, combining traditional scenery and with the inherent national colorful motives. Although Christmas is a Christian holiday — and Christians in Sri Lanka are about 7% — people who do not belong to this religion also celebrate it in their homes. December 25 is a holiday and non-working day in Sri Lanka.

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Holidays in Sri Lanka in 2018

1 Jan Mon Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day
14 Jan Sun Tamil Thai Pongal Day
31 Jan Wed Navam Full Moon Poya Day
4 Feb Sun National Day
13 Feb Tue Mahasivarathri Day
1 Mar Thu Medin Full Moon Poya Day
30 Mar Fri Good Friday
31 Mar Sat Bak Full Moon Poya Day
13 Apr Fri Day prior to Sinhala & Tamil New Year Day
14 Apr Sat Sinhala & Tamil New Year Day
29 Apr Sun Vesak Full Moon Poya Day
30 Apr Mon Day following Vesak Full Moon Poya Day
1 May Tue May Day
29 May Tue Adhi Poson Full Moon Poya Day
15 Jun Fri Id Ul-Fitr
27 Jun Wed Poson Full Moon Poya Day
27 Jul Fri Esala Full Moon Poya Day
22 Aug Wed Id Ul-Alha
25 Aug Sat Nikini Full Moon Poya Day
24 Sep Mon Binara Full Moon Poya Day
24 Oct Wed Vap Full Moon Poya Day
6 Nov Tue Deepawali
20 Nov Tue Milad un-Nabi
22 Nov Thu Ill Full Moon Poya Day
22 Dec Sat Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day
25 Dec Tue Christmas

Please pay attention during your stay in Sri Lanka, that in the days of Poya both state and private companies, as well as organizations and trade institutions are either closed or operate on a reduced schedule. Take care, please, of the completion of your activities or business and of purchases on the eve before the Poya Day.

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