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  Tibetan New Year  

 New Year Activities

1. Day before New Year's Eve (29th day of the 12th lunar month)

Usually, explanations of Tibetan festivals start with looking at the New Year's Day celebrations. However, the year's end is also of special importance and Tibetans observe "Gutor" while they are busy preparing for New Year's Day.

Starting on the 23rd day of the 12th month, people prepare for the most important festival of the year. Men purchase clothes, sugar, barley beer, rice, flour, and tea. Women make tsamba, butter, cakes, and fry foods, while wearing their hair in plaited braids. The feasts include a substantial amount of "Dresi," a sweet buttered rice dish with raisins; "Droma", which is rice boiled with small potatoes, various meats, fruits, breads, chang[what is chang?], butter tea, among other foods. "Kapse," a fried sweet that comes in different shapes and forms, are a must. Tibetans are supposed to see in the New Year with these sweets piled high on their trays.

On the 29th or 30th, herdsman will use flour to paint the "eight auspicious emblems" and use plasters to draw signs for good luck. Monasteries spread foods for the hungry ghosts and chase away demons.

2. On the New Year: (First through thirdday of the First lunar month)

Known as Losar, the Tibetan New Year is the most popular festival in Tibet. 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 Tibetan month became fixed as the new year. It is an occasion when Tibetan families reunite and expect a better year ahead.

Specially made offerings are presented at family shrines; doors are painted with religious symbols; residences are cleaned and milk curd is mixed with barley flour to make curd-pastries. On New Year's Eve, Tibetan families eat "Guthuk," a soup with dumplings. It is made of nine different ingredients, including dried cheese and various grains. Dough balls are also given out with various ingredients hidden in them such as chilies, salt, wool, rice and coal. The ingredients one finds hidden in one's dough ball are supposed to be a lighthearted comment on one's character. If one finds chilies in the dough, it means that one has a glib tongue; salt is a good sign and means that one is all right; wool means one is kind and patient; a white stone foretells a long life; and coal means one has a "black heart".

After the dinner it is the Festival of Banishing Evil Sprits. Torches are lit and people run around with a doll representing a fierce god, setting off bundles of straw and hand-held fire crackers, yelling as they throw rubbish on the streets to get rid of evil spirits from their houses.

The New Year is coming! Before dawn on New Year's Day, housewives fetch their first buckets of water (river water before the disappearing of stars) in the new year home and prepare breakfast, before waking everybody. People dress in their best, and take seats according to their age. The eldest will toss a little bit of tsamba to the sky to salute Buddha and the bodhisattva. Then, the eldest will bless the junior one with "Tashi Delek" (good luck and all wishes fulfilled). Young people wear chubas and pay their first visit of the year to a temple with their family early in the morning, and pray for a healthy and fortunate life. "Hopefully, we will gather together next year to enjoy again," they say.

On New Year's Day, Tibetans are supposed to offer ornaments called "Chemar" and chang beer to their households' deity and to the water dragon that takes care of their water supply. The chang served is strong enough to cause drunkenness. People visit their neighborhoods and exchange their Tashi Delek blessings in the first two days. Feasting is the theme during the session. They visit each other's feasts and have parties full of drinking and singing. The men don't miss an opportunity to enjoy gambling, with games of "Sho' (dice) and "Pakchen' (mah-jong).

On New Year's Day people spend time with their family or neighbors and then start paying visits to their relatives on the second day. Children also have a good time enjoying New Year's gifts of candies. On the third day, old prayer flags will be replaced with new ones. Other folk activities may be held in some areas to celebrate the events.

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