Public Holidays

70% of Sri Lankan population following Buddhism, majority of the public holidays in 2020 are based on Buddhist culture. Islam, Hinduism and Christianity are also practiced in some areas of the country and as a mark of respect; the government also includes holidays for these religions in the country’s list of public holidays every year.

One of the major Buddhism based holidays announced as national holidays are the Full Moon Poya Days of every month. On every Full Moon Poya Day, workers are entitled to a paid leave, banks and all organizations remain closed on these 12 days of the year.

Apart from that, some of the other important national holidays observed in Sri Lanka include National Day, Labor Day, New Year’s Day, Sinhala and Tamil New Year, Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday (Milad-un-Nabi), Thai Pongal Day, Mahasivarathri, Eid-al-Fitr, Eid-al-Adha and Christmas Day. While some of these are public, bank and mercantile holidays, others are only public and bank holidays where the corporate sector remains working. Time off is usually given at the discretion of the employer for celebrations of the religious and national festivals.

Below is a detailed list of all the Sri Lankan public holidays in 2020. This table shows you the date of the holiday, the occasion as well as which sectors remain closed on that particular holiday.

Sri Lanka Holidays 2021

Date Month Holiday
2021-Jan-14 (Thursday) January Tamil Thai Pongal Day
2021-Jan-28 (Thursday) January Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day
2021-Feb-04 (Thursday) February Independence Day
2021-Feb-26 (Friday) February Nawam Full Moon Poya Day
2021-Feb-11 (Thursday) February Mahasivarathri Day
2021-Mar-28 (Sunday) March Medin Full Moon Poya Day
2021-Apr-02 (Friday) April Good Friday
2021-Apr-13 (Tuesday) April Day prior to Sinhala Tamil New Year Day
2021-Apr-14 (Wednesday) April Sinhala and Tamil New Year Day
2021-Apr-26 (Monday) April Bak Full Moon Poya Day
2021-May-01 (Saturday) May May Day
2021-May-14 (Friday) May Eid-Ul-Fitr (Ramadan Festival Day)
2021-May-26 (Wednesday) May Vesak Full Moon Poya Day
2021-May-27 (Thursday) May Day following Vesak Full Moon Poya Day
2021-Jun-24 (Thursday) June Poson Full Moon Poya Day
2021-Jul-21 (Wednesday) July Eid-Ul-Alha (Hajj Festival Day)
2021-Jul-01 (Friday) July Esala Full Moon Poya Day
2021-Aug-22 (Sunday) August Nikini Full Moon Poya Day
2021-Sep-01 (September) September Binara Full Moon Poya Day
2021-Oct-19 (Tuesday) October Milad-Un-Nabi (Holy Prophet’s Birthday)
2021-Oct-20 (Wednesday) October Vap Full Moon Poya Day
2021-Nov-04 (Thursday) November Deepavali Festival Day
2021-Nov-18 (Thursday) November Il Full Moon Poya Day
2021-Dec-18 (Saturday) December Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day
2021-Dec-25 (Saturday) December Christmas Day

Sri Lanka has adopted 8 hours a day 5 working day week in general. While the government institutions are closed in the weekends, some of the commercial enterprises including the banks are open on Saturdays too. Public Holidays in Sri Lanka.

In addition to the Saturdays and Sundays, each full moon day called Poya day is a public holiday in Sri Lanka. This has resulted in at least one additional holiday for each month unless the poya day falls in the weekend.

Poya Day Worldwide

The Full moon day is important to Buddhists all around the world, who have adopted the Lunar Calendar for their religious observances. Owing to the fullness of the moon as well as its effulgence, the full moon day is treated as the most auspicious of the four lunar phases occurring once every lunar month (29.5 days) and thus marked by a holiday.

Full Moon Poya Day and the Buddhists of Sri Lanka

The term poya is derived from the Pali and Sanskrit form uposatha (from upa + vas: to fast) primarily signifying “day of fasting”. Generally shops and businesses are closed and the sale of alcohol and meat is forbidden island wide on Poya days. The practising Buddhists visit the village temple or one of the famous ancient Buddhist temples of Sri Lanka for the rituals of worship and observation of Buddhist precepts called Sil. Observing Sil is initiated in front of a bhikkhu (Buddhist monk) making a solemn Buddhist pledge in Pali language to strictly observe the 5 precepts during the course of the day. Five percepts of Buddhism are abstaining from killing any living being, abstaining from stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech and consumption of alcohol and intoxicants.

Poya Day and the Foreign Tourists to Sri Lanka

Tourists to Sri Lanka may call Poya day a Dry Day in the backdrop of non-availability of alcoholic beverages at hotels and restaurants. Wine stores, taverns and bars are closed on Poya days. Mini bar of your hotel room would be the one and only available option.

Buddhist Holidays
  • Wesak Full Moon Poya Day.
  • Day following the Wesak Full Moon Poya Day.
  • Poson Full Moon Poya Day.
  • Every single poya days in relavant months including mention abow

Hindu Holidays

  • Tamil Thai Pongal Day – harvest festival.
  • Deepavali Festival Day.
  • Percentage of Hindus in Sri Lanka: 14% of the population. Local astronomical observations being the determining factor, some of the Hindu festivals are declared with approximate time of their occurrence.

Muslim Holidays
  • Milad Un Nabi Holy Prophet’s Birthday
  • Eid al-Adha, Hadj Festival Day
  • Eid al-Fitr, end of Ramadan (Sept), Deepavali (Oct),
  • Eid al-Adha, Hadj Festival Day (28 Nov)

During the lunar month of Ramadan that precedes Eid al-Fitr, Muslims fast during the day and feast at night and normal business patterns run by the Muslims may be interrupted. However, this has no major bearing on the run of commerce and administration in Sri Lanka.

Christian Holidays

Percentage of Christians in Sri Lanka: 7% of the population.