Poson, also known as Poson Poya, is an annual festival held by Sri Lankan Buddhists celebrating the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC. The festival is the most important Poya (full moon) holiday of the year and the second most important Buddhist holiday of the year, being surpassed in importance by Vesak. Poson is celebrated throughout the island, with the most important ceremonies of the festival being held in Anuradhapura and Mihintale. The festival is held in early June, coinciding with the June full moon.
Poson is celebrated to commemorate the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka by Mahinda thera in 236 BC. The focal point of the religious festival is the Buddhist monastic complex on the mountain of Mihintale, where Mahinda preached Buddhism to one of the kings of Sri Lanka. Celebrations are also centered around Buddhist sites in Anuradhapura, which was one of the first cities in Sri Lanka to convert to Buddhism. During Poson, these two locations attract thousands of pilgrims from across Sri Lanka. These pilgrims dress in white and worship at the spiritual locales. Many of the most devoted pilgrims spend hours in quiet contemplation to honor the traditions of Buddhism.
Outside of Anuradhapura and Mihintale, the festival is celebrated with the telling of stories, music, dancing, the giving of free food and teas (provided by special vendors known as Dansals), and the hanging of paper lanterns.Some parts of Sri Lanka prohibit the selling of meat and alcohol during the festival.