Tibetan Festivals and Events
- by Caroline
- Last Updated: 2021-01-16
Tibetan Festivals are based on the Tibetan calendar, which varies every year in the solar calendar. Their exact solar date is calculated each year a few months prior by astrologers from Mentse Khang, aka - Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute, which in charge of researching Tibetan medicine and calculating the Tibetan calendar.
On the internet, there are various versions of the exact dates of Tibetan festivals, which is very confusing. But here at Great Tibet Tour, we try our best to provide you the most accurate ones in 2021 which are doubled-checked, as well as the detailed information on the origin and meaning.
Date: February 12th. 2021
Losar Festival could count as the most important festival for the Tibetan people. Started from December 29th of the Tibetan Calendar, Losar Festival is a moment for the family to enjoy a happy time and greet the coming year. There are usually three days celebrating Losar. Tibetan people will clean the house thoroughly on the first day, which implies to kick out the bad luck. Then, the housewife will prepare special food “Gutu” and the family will have it to farewell the past and welcome the future. On the second day, the monasteries will hold traditional ceremonies to expel the demons which exist everywhere. Tibetan people will go to monasteries and put an offering to the Buddhist deities. On the third day, Tibetan people will gather together, singing, dancing, while eating the fancy dinner. If you happen to be here during this time, the hospitable Tibetan people will invite you to their lovely home, where you can be affected by joy and happiness easily.
Butter Lantern Festival
Date: February 27th. 2021
The 15th day of the Tibetan calendar is the last climax of the Tibetan New Year, and it is also the last day of the Monlam. During the daytime, people will go to temples to worship and turn the prayer wheels. At night, they will light butter lamps and visit various butter sculptures at Barkhor Street.
Nyingchi Peach Blossom Festival
Date: March 2021
Every year in spring, hundreds of thousands of tourists come to join Nyingchi Peach Blossom Festival. The peach blossom period in Nyingchi is from March 25 to April 20. You will not only enjoy the lovely peach blossom but also have fun with activities such as whistling, princess' wedding, peach, and other folk activities.
Tsurphu Cham Dance Festival
Date: May 21st. 2021
Located 70 kilometers from Lhasa city, Tsurphu Monastery is not as famous as other monasteries like Drepung, Tashilhunpo, etc. But it is the main monastery of Kargyu Tibetan Buddhism. Besides, the world-known reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism was founded here for the first time, which spread by other sects afterward. Tsurphu Cham Dance Festival celebrates the eminent Indian monk, Padmasambhava, who was invited by the Tibetan King to teach Buddhism in Tibet.
Date: May 26th. 2021
The 15th. Day of every fourth month in the Tibetan calendar is an important day as it was the birthday of Sakyamuni, as well as the time of his enlightenment and entry into nirvana. There are two places for honoring the greatest Buddha. One is Lhasa; another one is Mt. Kailash. Thousands of Buddhist devotees come to Tibet to do a kora by following the Lhasa Lingkhor circuit or Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar route.
Tashilhunpo Thangka Festival
Date: June 24th. 2021
You can see three precious Thangkas, which are the treasures of Tashilhunpo Monastery unveiled today. It’s the only time to see those Thangkas during a year because they are well preserved in the monastery for the rest of the year. After the ceremony, the monks will perform a cham dance.
Samye Dolde (Samye Festival/Zamling Chisang)
Held over two or three days, the main events here are elaborate ritual ceremonies and cham dancing in front of the Utse Hall. Tibetans spend overnights at Samye and see religious dances, and most people also circumambulate holy mountains by carrying holy scriptures on their shoulders all the way in order to wash out sins and earn merits for their present and future life.
Date: July 20th. 2021
This largely secular festival in Gyantse, featuring such fun and games as line dances, yak races, archery and equestrian events. A large 480-year old thangka is unfurled at sunrise. As nomads, Tibetan people have a very deep feeling for horses. Thus, they love to hold horse racing games to remind them never to forget their blood.
Ganden Thangka Festival
Date: July 24th. 2021
Ganden Monastery displays its 25 holiest relics, which are normally locked away. A large offering ceremony accompanies the unveiling.
Damxung Horse Racing Festival
Date: August 2021
Regarded as one of the most significant Horse Racing Festivals in Tibet, it's also a time for Tibetans to celebrate the harvest. After the daily competition, there is a market for them to exchange commodities.
Date: August 10th. 2021
An important event in northern Tibet, thousands of nomads head to Nagqu for a week of traditional nomad sports. There are many horse racing festivals with different scales in Tibet every year. The big ones held in Gyantse, or Nagqu. Besides horse racing, you can also enjoy a big opening show and some other interesting activities, such as the Archery competition, Yak’s Burlesque, etc.
Date: August 8th. 2021
Besides of Shoton Festival, this feast has another three names, Yogurt Festival, Tibetan Opera Festival, and Buddha Exhibition Festival. It was originated from Drepung Monastery in the 11th. Century. According to the scripture of Tibetan Buddhism, the monks were not allowed to go out in summer in case of killing the small creatures. Began from the fourth month in the Tibetan calendar, they had to stay in the monasteries until the end of the sixth month. The laypeople would offer them yogurt for comforting their hard practice after they come out. To the present day, the opening of the Shoton Festival is the huge Thangka displayed at the back hill of Drepung Monastery. Then, there will be a traditional Tibetan opera in Norbulingka Park, where you can enjoy the fancy show with Tibetan people while eating the tasty Tibetan yogurt.
Date: August 14th. 2021
The Bathing Festival is called "Gama Riqu" by Tibetans, which means bathing. This traditional festival is very popular in the Tibetan area. In July of the Tibetan calendar, no matter men or women, would take a bath in the nearby river and wash their hair and body. It is said that they will become healthy and happy without any disease after bathing.
Date: End of Sep.
The Ongkor Festival is a festival for Tibetan farmers to celebrate their harvest. It is popular in Lhasa, Shigatse, Lhoka, etc. With 1500 years of history, the Ongkor Festival is a grand festival in rural Tibet. There's no fixed date to celebrate and it usually holds 1~3 days before the autumn harvest. As soon as the festival is over, the intense autumn harvest begins.
Buddha's Descent Day(Lhabab Duchen)
Date: October 22th. 2021
The Buddha's Descent Day is a traditional religious festival in Tibet. It is called “Lhabab Duchen” in Tibetan, which means the day of the fall of god. It is said that Buddha Sakyamuni would return to the world on that day. Before the festival, Tibetan believers will whitewash major temples to welcome the arrival of Buddha. On the day of the festival, Buddhist activities are held in various temples to pray for world peace and the prosperity of the Buddhist dharma.
Tibetan New Year in Kongbo Area
Long time ago, when a foreign army invaded Tibet, a tribe was unable to resist and had to ask for help from Kongpo Kingdom. The King of Kongpo formed an army to support them. To comfort the soldiers, the King advanced the Tibetan New Year to October 1 of the Tibetan calendar. Later, the custom of Kongpo New Year Festival came into being. The main activities of the festival are to invite dogs to choose food among Cuo(foretelling the harvest of the future year ahead), eat "Jieda", carry water, celebrate to honor the goddess of the harvest, and so on.
Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival (Galdan namchot /Ganden Nga-Choe)
Date: December 29th. 2021
It could say Ganden Monastery Lantern Festival is the last Tibetan festival in 2021. It's to commemorate the death of Tsongkhapa, who was the Buddhist reformer and Gelug school's founder. On that day, people light thousands of butter lamps day and night both inside and outside the temple altars, as well as on the streets of Lhasa, which is absolutely a beautiful scene, especially at the night. The number of butter lamps is usually singular because singular means auspicious in the Tibetan concept.
- Damgxung Horse Racing Festival
- Gyantse Horse Racing Festival
- Nagqu Horse Racing Festival
- Celebrate Saga Dawa Festival at Mt. Kailash
- Saga Dawa Festival
- Tibetan Shoton Festival
- Losar - Tibetan New Year
- Butter Lamp Festival
- Ganden Thangka Showing Festival
- Chokhor Duchen Festival
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