Tibetans will mark Losar - the Tibetan New Year - on February 14th, 2010. In the Tibetan lunar calendar, this day marks the beginning of the Iron Tiger Year 2137, a time for change, hope, and renewal. On this day, they celebrate their history, culture and religion.
Celebrate Tibetan New Year! For a Happy Valentine's Day, say 'I Love Tibet!'
This is a very special time where various festivals and celebrations are held throughout Tibet and in the exile communities around the world.
The Tibetan calendar is based on 12 lunar cycles, and Losar begins on the very first day of the first month. However, many of the preparations begin the day before, new years eve, so that everything is in order when it officially begins.
Here is a lovely video of celebrations in a monastery.
For example, in the monasteries the monks perform a special ritual or puja to honor the protector deities. This is also when the Losar drink called changkol is brewed using a recipe with chang, a type of Tibetan beer. The special noodle guthuk used in many of the dishes also has to be prepared the day before Losar begins.
Another item prepared in advance are the dough balls which have ingredients such as chilies, salt, wool, or coal hidden inside. These ingredients are supposed to be indicators of the person’s personality. So if you receive a dough ball that has chilies inside it means you’re talkative. Finding coal in your dough ball carries the same meaning as finding a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking. This is a good opportunity for new years resolutions to be made!
Tibetan New Years History
The celebration of the Losar dates back to before Buddhism was brought to the Tibetan plateau, when most people practiced the Bon religion. At this time winter ceremonies were held to offer incense and religious poems or prayers to calm the local spirits and deities. These religious rites evolved into a Buddhist festival probably during the reign of Pude Gungyal, ninth King of Tibet.
According to folklore, the change began when a woman named Belma introduced the concept of measuring time according to the phases of the moon. It may have originally been more of a farmers’ festival as the earlier accounts of celebration focus on harvest, cultivation, and healthy crops.
It is also at this time when the Dalai Lama and the government make a point of consulting the Nechung Oracle to see what the future may hold in store for Tibet.
New Year Traditions
On the first day of the Losar it is traditional to offer the Dalai Lama tse-ril (long-life pills) which are made from dough. In the Namgyal Monastery there will be sacrificial cakes offered to the deities. The Dalai Lama and the abbots of the three primary monasteries will offer up prayers while the monks recite the Palden Lhamo (Protector deity of Tibet). This will be followed by a formal greeting ceremony.
Next comes the dance of happy new year wishes performed by the garma (entertainers) and a debate of Buddhist philosophy. An official will make a request that the current Dalai Lama and all of the followers of Buddhism have a long, peaceful life to enable them to continue on their enlightened paths. This first day of the Tibetan New Year (Losar) ends with a farewell to His Holiness the Dalai Lama who will then retire.
The second day of the New Year is known as gyal-po lo-sar. This is a time of secular gatherings. The Dalai Lama will meet on this day with dignitaries from other countries.
The third day begins the “common” celebrations with friends and families. This is when people gather together to party and “ring in” the New Year. It’s also when the changkol (beer) which was prepared on the first day of the Tibetan New Year (Losar) is finally ready to be consumed.
Losar was originally celebrated for 15 days, but is most commonly celebrated for 3 days in modern times. This year celebrations will begin on February 14 in 2010. This year, the Chinese new year also falls on February 14th so their new years traditions will also be starting. The red banners will be hung in accordance with the legend of chinese new year.
Losar was not celebrated in 2009 out of respect for all the Tibetans who died in the 2008 protests.