February 4th is the date Sri Lanka celebrates its independence from Colonial rule. After gaining independence from British rule, the island has every year, celebrated the efforts of its forefathers to gain its cherished sovereignty, through peaceful means and negotiations.
The celebration itself is magnificent with pomp and pageantry resonating the pride and spirit of patriotism Sri Lankans feel. The parade includes school children dancing and singing, military marches, floats, cultural performances, religious events, naval and air force displays and the firing of canons. A colourful and vibrant celebration worth experiencing.
Usually held at the Galle Face Green, it is accessible to the public. However, you should be prepared for big crowds and intense heat. It is all part of the authentic experience but being prepared will help the experience be that much more enjoyable. Hat, sunnies, sun block and plenty of water are essential. Maybe pack a snack or two as well. Don’t forget to click some pics of this colourful and vibrant affair that despite the crowd and heat will sweep you up in the moment. The hoisting of the national flag, speeches, the singing of the national anthem, performance by school children, the overhead air display all add to a deep feeling of patriotic pride and dignity.
The 4th of February is a national holiday which means schools and place of work are closed. Nevertheless, there will be an intensity of traffic towards the Galle Face area and its surroundings owing to road closure and dignitary travel. Be sure to keep this in mind if you are making any travel plans on that day. In fact, for about a week leading up to the Independence celebrations road closures and traffic congestions become norm as practices for the event commence.
It varies from year to year, but usually on the 4th itself alcohol is not available for purchase with some years this restriction being enforced a couple of days prior as well. This is done with the aim to reduce rowdy or boisterous behaviour so that the celebrations happen in a dignified manner. While alcohol consumption is not prohibited in private it is best to avoid drinking in public at the event.
Whether you walk around Colombo, its suburbs or travel further out, you will find the national flag gently fluttering in the wind of almost all the houses, shops and business buildings. Sri Lankas feel a quiet pride in their independence and this is how they showcase it. Minimum fuss but clearly visible.