Losar Festival - Tibetan New Year
- by Caroline
- Last Updated: 2020-05-29
We always say that the best way to explore Tibetan culture is to attend the Tibetan festivals. Tibetan New Year, called Losar as well, is the most important festival for Tibetan people. It is usually held during February and March when Tibet is closed for foreigners. Thus, international travelers have little chance to see this big feast in person. However, you could learn it from this post and image the alive scene.
Name and History
Tibetan people call the new year “Losar”. Losar is not one word in the Tibetan language. Actually, it consists of two words, Lo and Sar. “Lo” means new, “Sar” means year.
Dated back to the old times, when there was no Tibetan Buddhism yet, Tibet was controlled by its original religion Bon. The ancient people had a big celebration in winter. They prayed for protection from deities. As time passed, this event became an annual festival, which was the predecessor of Losar.
All the Tibetan festivals are based on the Tibetan calendar, so is Losar. According to the Tibetan calendar, Losar is held for three days, the last two days of the old year and the first day of the new year. And it’s almost as same as the Chinese New Year, in mid-February of solar calendar. Maybe one day earlier or later. Tibetan calendar counts on 12 or 13 lunar months. So the Tibetan New Year was thirty days later than the Chinese New Year. In 2020, Tibetan New Year's on Feb. 24.
Activities and Features
Same as all the celebrations for the new year in the world, Losar Festival is also a happy time with family together to discard the old year and bring in the new one. Besides, as a minority nationality, nearly every single Tibetan people is a good singer or dancer. Compliance with nature, they get used to express their emotions by singing and dancing. So, if you are traveling to Tibet during this time, your ear will be fed with festive music all around.
The biggest difference with the Chinese New Year is the continuous chanting as Tibet is a religious place where all the people have faith in Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan people believe that evil demons exist everywhere. So, at Losar Festival, there will be a very important activity which is for dislodging the evil. Tibetan people will hold some traditional ceremonies handed down generation by generation. They dressed up in their folk costumes, chanting Buddhist scripture and passing fire torches on the street. Expel the evil while praying for good luck and bliss for the coming new year.
Besides the above activities, there is another interesting one, the antimasque. For example, the deer dance, or the funny fight between the king and its subordinates, which can make people laugh out loud.
In one world, Losar Festival is a celebration full of music, dance, and joy.
How do Tibetan people celebrate Losar?
There are three days total to celebrate Losar Festival. So, what will the Tibetan people do every day?
Losar Day 1 - Spring-cleaning and Food Preparation
Actually, the first two days of Losar is the period of preparation. On the first day, Tibetan people will have a thorough sweep up to make sure everywhere in the house is clean enough, especially the kitchen. It implies to clean away the dirt or the bad luck of the old year and ready to greet the new year. Tibetan people consider the kitchen is the most important part of the house because the food is made there. So, they will pay particular attention to it when cleaning the house, even the chimney will be swept dirtless.
After that, the housewife will start to prepare special food for Losar. There is a kind of traditional Tibetan food called Dough Balls, of which the skin is made of highland barley powder and the filling is various stuff, such as rice, salt, chilies, wool, or coal, etc. Don’t be surprised with the stuffing. They have meanings. The Dough Balls will be handed out after cooked. If you eat rice or salt in the ball, so, congratulations! It’s a good sign. You may get fortunate in the near future; to the contrary, if you eat coal in the ball, it means you may get some trouble and should be careful in the next few days.
Losar Day 2 - Holding Religious Ceremonies to Expel Evil
It’s the last day of the old year. Tibetan people will go to the monasteries nearby, where the monks will hold a traditional ceremony to expel evil. Of course, the laypeople will bring some incenses and fruits to worship the deities, and give some presents to the monks or lamas. The torches will be fired in the monastery, coupled with the chanting to dislodge evil and bring light and hope to Tibetan people.
Losar Day 3 – Convivial Banquet with Family and Friends Together
After a house cleaning and receiving a blessing from monasteries, finally, it’s time to enjoy a festal time with beloved family members and friends. The last day of Losar is also the first day of the new year. Today, Tibetan people will get up early. Firstly take a bath, then wear the new clothes. The next step is to place some fresh offering to worship the deities enshrined in their house. Tibetan people are all devout Buddhists. There is a special room in nearly every Tibetan house where enshrines the deities.
After this small but serious ceremony, the young people may hang out with friends or stay at home to help elders prepare dinner. In the evening, all the family members will sit together, enjoy the delicious traditional food while watching TV. There are so many things to do this night, such as singing, dancing, drinking the highland barley wine, talking about the funny things that happened before, looking forward to the good future, exchanging gifts with each other, etc. All Tibet is reigned by a peaceful atmosphere totally.
Another interesting custom, on Losar Day 3, the housewife will go out very early for fetching the first bucket of water from the river nearby. This water is regarded as the most sacred water which can bring fortune to the whole family for the new year.
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