Holidays and festivals in Sri Lanka are an essential part of culture, and the country has almost 25 public holidays a year. Most celebrations have religious connotations, and many dates are based on the position of the moon. The day of the full moon (or poya) for each month is a public holiday.

The most popular celebration for Buddhists and Hindus is the New Year holiday in April. People clean house and decorate the streets, buy new clothes, visit friends, eat special foods and participate in New Year's games and celebrations. According to the Almanac, there is a right time to kindle the fire, to have the first meal and to exchange gifts. Before dressing in their new clothes, they have a bath scented with leaves, flowers, saffron and milk.

Deepavali, a four-day festival of light, is the most important Hindu celebration of the year. People decorate houses and temples with lamps in honour of the day that Vishnu triumphed over a giant. Another important Hindu holiday is Thai Pongal, a January harvest celebration that honours the Sun God.

In May, Buddhists hold a two-day festival called Vesak to celebrate Buddha's birth, enlightenment and passing away. Panels showing the life of Buddha are hung in villages, and people light paper lanterns and lamps. Poson Poya in June marks the arrival of Buddhism, which was brought to Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka by the Venerable Mahinda, son of the Indian emperor Ashoka; pilgrims dressed in white climb the summit of Mihintale to the shrine. The two-week Esala Perahera procession in the city of Kandy honours the relic of Buddha's sacred tooth. Parades feature dancers, drummers and decorated elephants. On the last night's parade, one elephant carries the casket containing the sacred relic.

Sri Lankan Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter, when passion plays are performed. Following the lunar calendar, Muslim celebrations include Id-ul-Azha, which honours those who make the pilgrimage to Mecca, and Milad-um-Nabi, which celebrates the birth of Mohammed. The month of Ramadan is for fasting, feasting and giving alms to the poor.

January Durutha Parahera
Thai Pongal
February 4 Independence Day
April 13 and 14 New Year
May Vesak
June Poson Poya
August Esala Perahera
October - November Deepavali
December 25 Christmas Day