While Sri Lanka is always promoted as a year-round holiday-friendly destination, choosing to celebrate Christmas in Sri Lanka will definitely not disappoint you.
As with everywhere else, Christmas in Sri Lanka is also celebrated on the 25th of December every year.
Despite the Hindu and Buddhist majority in the country, Christmas still emerges as the most celebrated festival. From indulging in Christmas feasts to taking a stroll on the exotic beaches, from enjoying the hues of a sea-side sunset to watching whales, dolphins and elephants, a complete to-do list is essential to make the most of an exciting Christmas in Sri Lanka.
Did You Know?
In 2016, Sri Lanka received the Guinness World Record for creating the world’s tallest artificial Christmas tree. It took weeks of preparation to have the tree ready in time before the Santa Season.
Although this was a few years ago, it is indeed true that Sri Lanka celebrates every Christmas in style! In Sinhalese, Santa is known as “Naththal Seeya”, and Christmas is known as “Naththala”. The streets, public places and houses are all adorned with vibrant illuminations, hotels and restaurants are gorgeously decorated as per varying themes, and firecrackers brighten up the skies to produce a vibrant image for tourists and locals exploring the season.
How Christmas is Celebrated in Sri Lanka
In between the 16th to 18th century, Sri Lanka was popular for foreign trade, which is why traders from across the world came to Sri Lanka and decided to settle here. Many of them were Christians and Catholics who would celebrate Christmas. Colonization then took place in the country, which lead to an increase in Christians and Churches being established in Sri Lanka. Gradually, Christmas celebrations became more glamorous and delighting, and today, the season brings in grand scale festivity.
In addition to Catholics and Christians, other communities in Sri Lanka also join hands in expressing the joys of this wonderful season. As December approaches, Sri Lankans are looking forward to celebrating Christmas with a lot of excitement and anticipation. Houses are thoroughly refurbished, new clothes are bought, Christmas goodies are being prepared, and of course, the Christmas Tree is a must in every house! Santa Claus is a prominent figure in every Xmas celebration and children are eagerly waiting to receiving gifts from Santa wherever they see him!
Almost every church in the island hosts a midnight Christmas Holy Mass that starts at 11.30pm on the 24th of December and goes on till the dawn of Christmas day. The devotees are blessed at this Holy Mass where carols are sung and prayers are offered to the divine. Christmas carol services also bring out the essence of the festive season. Groups such as companies, societies, institutes and churches organize carol services that are performed on stage or on the streets. The harmonious rhythms of these soothing carols are an impressive sight indeed.
In the spirit of giving and sharing, Christians visit their relations and friends, wish each other, exchange gifts, and host parties for an entertaining evening. Giving to the needy and creating opportunities for underprivileged groups is also an essential part of Christmas celebrations in Sri Lanka.
Christmas goodies in Sri Lanka
Christmas cannot be Christmas without the mouth-watering delicacies that is a significant part of this festive season.
Sri Lankan style Christmas cake is made up of dried fruits such as sultanas, cherries, raisins, cashew nuts, and a few secret ingredients such as rose essence, dried ginger and pumpkin preserves. Offering a perfect blend of these secret flavors, the cake is topped with a layer of marzipan, on which all sorts of Xmas decoration is possible.
One of the richest Christmas dishes packed with flavors of jaggery, coconut, cashews, and spices, Bibikkan is another cake which has a spongy texture, is brown in color, and has a unique Sri Lankan taste to it.
A favorite among the kids, Xmas cookies are usually made out of standard cookie recipes but are shaped in stars, candy, sock, bell and trees, topped with a layer of fondant icing with vibrant colors to suit the Christmas theme. A batch of brightly designed Christmas themed cookies will give the ideal finishing touch to your snacks table with rich cake and bibikkan.
In addition to the above snack and desserts, the main meal at any Christmas party will include a wide spread of Sri Lankan cuisine – rice, meat curry, dhal, greens, and a variety of accompanying vegetable curries. Luxury hotels and resorts in Sri Lanka offer a gala Christmas lunch/dinner buffet that includes Sri Lankan, Indian, Chinese and Continental cuisines for guests to indulge in.
Things to do in Sri Lanka for Christmas
- Shop till you drop at the Galle Face Green Fair and the Colombo Christmas market that take place every year. Giving you authentic Christmas feels, you can find a variety of items from candles, sarees, stones, jewelry, tableware and much more at these locations.
- Make your regular Christmas celebration an eccentric one by celebrating amidst the wilderness at Yala National Park or partying and surfing away at one of the south coast beaches (Hikkaduwa, Mirissa, Hiriketiya).
- Whale watching in Mirissa is at its peak during the months of December and January, so if you are in town during this holiday season, don’t miss out on this adventurous activity and catch a few whales showing off their magnificent bodies to the human species.
- Complete your Christmas celebration in Sri Lanka with a wholesome meal at one of the many five-star hotels across the island. Accompanied with live music and dance performances, the mouth-watering turkey and Christmas cake are delicacies that shouldn’t be missed!
Is December a good time to visit Sri Lanka?
December is indeed a peak season for the tourism industry in Sri Lanka. Not only is the weather ideal for enjoying a good holiday, all hotels across the island have aligned their activities and interiors in line with the spirit of Christmas, thereby offering you a memorable experience!
The warm and welcoming hearts of Sri Lankans, together with the glamorous Christmas festivities in the island as well as the stunning beaches, hill country, wildlife and more, makes an Xmas holiday in Sri Lanka, a festival that shouldn’t be missed!