Top 5 cultural festivals you need to know when travelling to Colombo – a cultural melting pot

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Scheduling a holiday to Sri Lanka becomes all the more important, especially when you find out to your benefit that you can blend in with the locals and share in their joy and festivities.

  1. Sinhala and Tamil New Year

Sinhala and Tamil New Year in Sri Lanka, Amila Tennakoon, (CC BY 2.0)

Held during the second week of April, this festival brings families together from all corners of the country and globe in a grand scale celebration. Heralding the start of the Lunar year, visitors to Colombo and also its suburbs can witness an array of traditional practices which take the form of boiling milk rice and consuming sweetmeats at various auspicious times. Locals also use the New Year to take part in fun-filled games of skill where families, relatives and entire villages and communities challenge each other within the most laidback of setting.


   2. Deepavali

Earth-Bound Misfit, Happy Deepavali, (CC BY 2.0)

Revealing light’s victory over darkness that was brought about as a result of Lord Rama’s victory over the demon king Ravana, Deepavali or ‘Deevali’ is portrayed as the ‘Festival of ‘Lights by the Hindu faith. For the foreign traveller staying at hotel properties such as the Mount Lavinia Hotel which is arguably one of the best hotels in Colombo, calling by or passing by families celebrating this festival will be able to witness that great care is taken to decorate and beautify each house by way of tiny lamps made of clay. The festival lasts for a period of 5 days and is usually celebrated in October or November. A common occurrence during this time of the year would be where families meet, greet and exchange gifts before making their way to the ‘kovil’ or temple to offer prayers and take part in ‘poojas.


 3. Ramadan

Ramadan Festival, Amila Tennakoon, (CC BY 2.0)

Commonly associated with a state of abstinence, fasting and cleansing, Muslims around the country join hands in the month-long festival known as Ramadan. Commencing upon the first sighting of the moon, Ramadan involves daily spells of fasting with specific times provided for the breaking of fast. Mosques are known to give out dates and various forms of specially prepared beverages for the purpose of breaking one’s fast. Such a cycle of events continues until the final day which is known as ‘Eid’ and this is when the fasting period culminates in joyous feasting and giving.


  4. Vesak Poya

Gerald Pereira, Vesak, (CC BY 2.0)

Seen as a religious festival of the Buddhist faith but more of a celebration which the entire country and its people are involved in, Vesak Poya Day which in 2018 will be celebrated on the 29th and 30th of April is one of the most looked forward to events. The festival marks the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing with devotees using this opportunity to spend time in deep meditation at local temples. However, come night the scenes turn to more of the festive spirit that is part and parcel of Vesak with free food being handed out to those passing by on their way to witnessing spectacularly lit ‘pandols’ that bring to light important events that took place during the times of the Buddha.


   5. Christmas Day

Christmas Celebrations in Sri Lanka, Amila Tennakoon, (CC BY 2.0)

The birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated by Christians throughout the country and in particular, those living in Colombo and its outer sections can look forward to a month of hearty dinners, shopping sprees but most importantly, the sharing of Christ’s message of deliverance amongst family and friends. The giving of alms to the poorer communities is also usually done during this time of year. With the conclusion of November comes to the arduous task of mixing together the Christmas cake ingredients and within the first few weeks of December, the masterpiece is all but complete. The attending of midnight mass and the partaking of Christmas Day lunch form part of the series of events that are treasured and cherished by all concerned.




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