What Is Losar And How To Celebrate It
- On April 19, 2017
- By Shannon Ullman
- In General
Ever heard of Losar? It’s OK, I haven’t either until just this week. Essentially, the Tibetan New Year, Losar is a Tibetan Buddhist celebration that is surrounded by a unique and luxurious festival. Essentially, it’s the lunar new year and is celebrated on different dates depending on location. Want to know more? Here is everything you ever wanted to know about Losar and how you can celebrate it too.
Losar, or Tibetan New Year, is the most significant festival in the entire Tibetan calendar. While it typically lasts somewhere around 15 days, the first three are the most important of the festival. While the dates of celebration change from year to year, it is typically the end of January or early February that the celebration occurs. Since the Tibetan calendar is almost identical to the Chinese calendar, it falls around the same time as the Chinese New Year.
Losar celebrations have been around way before Buddhism even reached Tibet from India. It was during the reign of Pude Gungyal, the Tibetan king from 617-698 that two customs, the burning of winter incense by the Bon religion and the annual harvest festival, that the Losar festival arose. Today, this festival is celebrated in India, Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal.
The practice of celebrating Losar is quite involved. It is characterized by its dancing and music but also involves rituals and secular practices like prayers, flag hanging, and ceremonies.
In preparation for the festival, most people clean out their homes and put up festive decorations. It is also important for them to make offerings and draw the eight auspicious symbols on the walls in white powder. The symbols include two golden fish, a parasol, the lotus blossom, a conch shell, the vase, the banner of victory, the eternal knot and the Dharma Wheel.
Celebration On Day 1
The eve of the New Year is quite important too, and there are plenty of customs that take place. Families will offer cakes, fruit, beer, candy, and bread on their altars. Many people make the traditional soup as well which consists of small dumplings, cheese, peas, green peppers, meat, rice, wheat, sweet potatoes, radishes, and vermicelli. The dumplings are quite essential to the dish as they are filled with nine fortune symbols which show people what their fortunes for the upcoming year will be.
A special noodle called Guthuk, which is made of nine different ingredients, is also prepared on this day. Another custom for the first day is to make and hand out dough balls. They are filled with various ingredients like salt, chilies, wool, coal and rice. When receiving a dough ball, people will look for what’s inside; which will give them some insight into their character. If a person finds chilies in their dough ball, it means that they are talkative and if someone finds rice or salt in theirs, it indicates good luck.
Celebration On Day 2
The second day is one of the religious ceremonies. People will go to the monasteries and give gifts to the monks. They will also set off firecrackers because they believe that the noise drives away any bad spirits that may be around. People will then spend the day cleaning out their houses even more thoroughly and will then enjoy a feast together.
Celebration On Day 3
This is the actual Tibetan New Years day, and people will get up early, bathe and then get dressed in new clothing. Placing offerings in the shrines of their homes, they worship and then exchange gifts with their family members later on in the day. There is a reunion dinner for families during which it is tradition to serve a cake called kapse and an alcoholic drink called chang. The housewife plays an important role on this day as she gets up before anyone else and prepares barley wine for the family. She then will sit at the window and wait for the sunrise so that she can get a bucket and head to the river to get the first helping of water for the year. This water is seen as the most sacred and pure of the entire year to come.
The festivities are quite elaborate, making this time of the year, the perfect time to visit Tibet. If you are planning on traveling to China next winter, try to make it over to this culturally rich part of the country to experience the local customs.