The Tibetan New year, known as Losar, is the most important local festival which is celebrated for 2 weeks during the month of December and January as per the lunar calendar.
Traditional Tibetan New Year’s Day falls on February 25 this year and the holiday in 2009 will last from February 23 to March 1. It will be a colorful weeks of activities, including Tibetan drama, pilgrims making incense offerings and Tibetans dressed in their finest crowding the streets.
Tibetan dancers perform during a celebrative event for the upcoming new year of Tibetan calendar.
In ancient times when the peach tree was in blossom, it was considered as the starting of a new year. Since the systematization of the Tibetan calendar in 1027 AD., the first day of the first month became fixed as Losar, the New Year.
Tibetans begin preparing for New Year’s Day in the 12th month in the Tibetan calendar, with initial activities including the use of green shoots of highland barley as offerings to the statues of Buddha.
Activities around the middle of the month include preparing fried wheat dough mixed with butter. The end of the month approaches with each household preparing a Five-Cereal Container containing items such as roasted highland barley flour mixed with butter, fried barley and dromar refreshments, adorned with highland barley ears and a butter sculpture in the shape of the head of a sheep. This is done to pray for a bumper harvest and better life in the coming year.
Butter sculptures in the shape of the head of a sheep
The 29th day of the month arrives with Tibetans cleaning their kitchens and using dry wheat flour to paint eight auspicious patterns on the central wall. The whole family then gathers in the evening to first eat dough drops known as Gutu in Tibetan, and then participate in a grand ritual designed to ward-off evil spirits.
New Year’s Day of the new Tibetan year is actually celebrated on New Year’s Eve. Lime is used to paint Swastika symbols on all doors; new woven rugs are placed in the newly cleaned rooms; and sacrificial objects such as fried wheat dough, fruit, butter, tea bricks and dried fruit are placed in front of niches holding statues of Buddha.