Sri Lanka Annual Events

With a multitude of cultural attractions, Sri Lanka is an island that prides itself in its rich culture, all of which pay homage to the wealth of rituals and traditions that are unique to the country. The cultural diversity is Sri Lanka is most evident in the annual events that are spread over the calendar year offering tourists a spectacular chain of events to indulge in. Be it religious or traditional, the popular annual events in Sri Lanka hold a set of traditions that relate a story behind the spirituality, diversity and history of Sri Lanka, all of which shape the island’s identity.
 The colorful festivals and events of Sri Lanka promises to transport you back in time to a world of religious pageantry, elegant dancers, adorned elephants and vibrant processions. While there are plenty of things to do in Sri Lanka, participating in the annual events would undoubtedly be an unparalleled activity that would be a one-in-a-lifetime experience for visiting tourists.

The Sinhala and Tamil New Year

Celebrated on the 13th and 14th of April, the New Year is an originally agricultural festival that marks the end of the harvest and the start of the southwest monsoon. Old rituals such as lighting the hearth and eating for the first time in the New Year are done at astrologically auspicious times and horoscopes are cast and special food is offered to the Gods. Many games are conducted during the New Year, adding to the fun and lively festive ambiance that is impossible to miss out on.


Among the Sri Lankan events, Vesak is arguably the most colorful one. Celebrated on the full moon in May, Vesak is a sacred Buddhist festival that celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha. Lanterns adorn every nook and cranny of cities, houses and shops and small clay coconut oil lamps are lit up in villages. The cities are illuminated with structures called Pandals which are vibrantly decorated panels that relate the story of Lord Buddha’s life. The country also comes alive with ‘dansals’ which are booths that offer food ranging from sweets and ice cream to rice and curry, all free of charge.


A festival that takes place on the 14th of January, Pongal is the Hindu celebration in honor of the Sun God. Ponkkol literally means ‘boiling over’ and after worshipping at the temple, a large pot of rice is cooked in spicy sweetened milk and left to boil. The direction of the spilling indicates luck for the upcoming year and the rest makes for a delicious feast.

Esala Perahera

Esala is the month of festivals around Sri Lanka, the finest of which is the famous Esela Perahera held in Kandy over a course of ten days. The festival follows the patterns of ancient Anuradhapura when the Tooth Relic was taken through the city in a procession. It features hundreds of elaborately decorated elephants, hordes of dancers, fire-eaters, drummers, acrobats and much more.


Vel is a Skanda-inspired Hindu festival held to commemorate God’s trident (Vel). The Vel is placed in a gilded temple chariot that is pulled by devotees adorned in white and covered with holy ash. Other festivals honoring Skanda are held in Jaffna where the event lasts for 26 days. A few devotees also subject themselves to bloody acts of physical harm to express their love of Skanda.

Duruthu Perahera

Second only to the Kandy Perahera, the Duruthu Perahera is held in January to commemorate Lord Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka 2,500 years ago. The festival is adorned with a beautiful procession of decorated elephants, drummers and dancers.


Celebrated in late October of early November, Deepavali is characterized with countless flickering oil lamps that celebrate Rama’s return after his exile and also to welcome the Goddess of Prosperity.

 Non-religious Festivals

While most the annual events in Sri Lanka are predominantly religious festivals, there are other events too. These include the Fairway Galle Literary Festival that takes in late January through early February attracting famous authors from around the world together with famous Sri Lanka scribes. The Colombo Art Biennale which happens in February, the Electric Peacock Music Festival in December and the Hikka Beach Fest in late July and early August are some other interesting Sri Lanka events.

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