2024 Public Holidays in Sri Lanka

Public Holidays in Sri Lanka 2024

Sri Lanka, with its rich cultural and religious diversity, observes a variety of public holidays throughout the year. These holidays reflect the island nation’s Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, and Islamic traditions, as well as its colonial history and national identity. Here is a comprehensive list and description of public holidays in Sri Lanka for the year 2024.

National Public Holidays

New Year’s Day – January 1st

Description: New Year’s Day, known as “Aluth Avurudu” or “Sinhala and Tamil New Year,” is a significant cultural celebration in Sri Lanka. It marks the beginning of the traditional Sinhala and Tamil New Year and is observed with rituals, customs, and festivities that symbolize renewal and prosperity. Families gather to engage in traditional games, prepare special foods, and exchange gifts.

Tamil Thai Pongal Day – January 14th

Description: Tamil Thai Pongal Day is a harvest festival celebrated by the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. It is a time to give thanks to the sun god for a bountiful harvest and is marked by the boiling of the first rice of the season in clay pots. The day is also characterized by colorful kolam decorations, cultural performances, and the sharing of traditional sweets.

National Day – February 4th

Description: National Day commemorates Sri Lanka’s independence from British colonial rule in 1948. It is a patriotic holiday that celebrates the country’s sovereignty and national identity. The day is marked by flag-raising ceremonies, parades, cultural events, and speeches by government officials, reflecting on the nation’s history and progress.

Sinhala and Tamil New Year – April 13th and 14th

Description: Sinhala and Tamil New Year, also known as “Aluth Avurudu,” is the most significant cultural festival in Sri Lanka, celebrated by both the Sinhalese and Tamil communities. It marks the beginning of the traditional new year and is a time for family reunions, religious observances, and cultural rituals. Festivities include the lighting of the hearth, traditional games like “kotta pora” (pillow fighting), and the preparation of special foods.

May Day – May 1st

Description: May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, is observed worldwide to honor the contributions of workers to society. In Sri Lanka, it is a day for trade unions, workers’ organizations, and political parties to rally for labor rights, fair wages, and improved working conditions. Demonstrations, rallies, and marches are common, highlighting the importance of solidarity and collective action.

Vesak – May 18th and 19th

Description: Vesak, also known as Buddha Jayanti or Buddha Purnima, is the most significant Buddhist festival in Sri Lanka, commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha. It is celebrated with religious observances, including the decoration of temples with colorful lanterns and flags, chanting of scriptures, and almsgiving to the needy. Devotees also participate in processions, cultural performances, and acts of charity.

Poson Poya – June 7th

Description: Poson Poya commemorates the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka by Arahat Mahinda, the son of Emperor Ashoka of India. It is a significant religious observance for Buddhists, particularly in the ancient city of Anuradhapura, where elaborate ceremonies take place at historical sites such as Mihintale and Ruwanwelisaya. Devotees engage in pilgrimages, meditation, and acts of merit-making to honor the teachings of Buddhism.

Esala Perahera – August 1st to 11th

Description: Esala Perahera, also known as the Kandy Esala Perahera, is one of the grandest and most famous Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka. It is held annually in the city of Kandy to honor the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha, which is housed in the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa). The festival features spectacular processions of caparisoned elephants, traditional dancers, drummers, and fire performers, culminating in the Randoli Perahera on the final night.

Deepavali – October 28th

Description: Deepavali, also known as Diwali or the Festival of Lights, is a significant Hindu festival celebrated by the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. It symbolizes the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. The day is marked by the lighting of oil lamps, the decoration of homes and temples with colorful rangoli designs, and the exchange of sweets and gifts. Fireworks displays and cultural performances add to the festive atmosphere.

Christmas Day – December 25th

Description: Christmas Day is celebrated by the Christian community in Sri Lanka to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a time for religious services, carol singing, and festive gatherings with family and friends. Churches are adorned with nativity scenes, and homes are decorated with Christmas trees and lights. Traditional Christmas foods like “breudher” (Dutch Christmas cake) and “kokis” (crispy Sri Lankan cookies) are enjoyed.

Table: Public Holidays and Days Off in Sri Lanka 2024

Public Holiday Date Days Off Groups of People
New Year’s Day January 1 1 day General population
Tamil Thai Pongal Day January 14 1 day Tamil community
National Day February 4 1 day General population
Sinhala and Tamil New Year April 13-14 2 days Sinhalese, Tamil community
May Day May 1 1 day Workers
Vesak May 18-19 2 days Buddhist community
Poson Poya June 7 1 day Buddhist community
Esala Perahera August 1-11 11 days (varies) General population
Deepavali October 28 1 day Tamil Hindu community
Christmas Day December 25 1 day Christian community


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