Tibetan New Year – translated from ལོ་གསར་ meaning ‘Losar’ is the most important celebration in the Tibetan Calendar.
What is the history of Losar?
Losar or Tibetan New Year predates the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet. It has roots in a winter incense-burning custom of the Bon religion. During the reign of the ninth Tibetan king, Pude Gungyal (617-698). It is said that this custom merged with a harvest festival to form the annual New Year Festival.
The 14th Dalai Lama frames the importance of consulting the Nechung Oracle for Losar:
For hundreds of years now, it has been traditional for the Dalai Lama, and the Government, to consult Nechung during the New Year Festivals.
Tibetan New Year is celebrated for 15 days, with the main celebrations on the first three days.
In 2018 it began on February 16th.
In 2019 it will begin on February 5th.
In 2020 it will begin on February 25th.
The First day of New Year
Is called Lama Losar when all the Tibetan Buddhists greet their respective gurus and wish each other prosperity for the year ahead. For a good harvest, offerings of barley seeds and tsampa are made to home alters. Tibetan women get up early to cook barley wine and prepare a dish called Dresi. A beverage called changkol is made from chhaang (a Tibetan cousin of beer). Families visits the local monastery to offer prayers and attend sermons.
The Second day of New Year
Is known as King’s Losar (gyalpo losar). When the revered Dalai Lama exchanges greetings with national leaders. In ancient times a tribute was paid to the kings who would also offer gifts to the public. It is traditionally preceded by the five-day practice of Vajrakilaya.
On the Third day of New Year
Offerings are given to the various Gods and protectors on Choe-kyong Losar. Prayer flags are hung and devotees visit monasteries, shrines and stupas.
More Useful information about Losar
Losar is marked with activities that symbolise purification, and welcoming in the new.
Buildings are whitewashed and thoroughly cleaned, people wear new clothes and special food is prepared.
Buddhist monks adorn the monasteries with the finest decorations, and conduct religious ceremonies.
Because the Uyghurs adopted the Chinese calendar, and the Mongols and Tibetans adopted the Uyghur calendar. Losar occurs near or on the same day as the Chinese New Year and The Mongolian New Year, but the traditions of Losar are unique to Tibet. It predate both Indian and Chinese influences by a considerable margin.
Originally, ancient celebrations of Tibetan New Year occurred solely on the winter solstice
It was only moved to coincide with the Chinese and Mongolian New Year by a leader of the Gelug school of Buddhism fairly recently.
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