Losar – The Tibetan New Year Festival

Tibetan New Year Losar is a fifteen day celebration that is held to usher in the Tibetan New Year. The first three days are the most intense of the celebratory process (and possibly the most tiring). Changkol is drunk in large quantities by those celebrating during the first day of Losar. Day two starts the celebrations on a more community orientated level with the King’s Losar (this is event is prepared the five days prior to the beginning of Losar with the traditional Vajrakilaya ceremonies). The practice of Losar actually predates Buddhism in the region. Traditionally Losar revolved around a series of ceremonies in which incense was burnt as an offering to spirits. After the gradual implementation of Buddhism as a national religion Losar became a festival with strong Buddhist connotations.

Losar is not based upon the Gregorian calendar; however the Tibetan calendar also has a twelve month cycle. Monasteries start preparations for Losar by performing a ritual cleansing of the monastery to ward off evil spirits and invoke the deities that offer protection. One of the more interesting traditions surrounding Losar is that of the guthuk noodle. The guthuk noodle is made up of a variety of ingredients and eaten with dough balls. The dough balls themselves are filled with different ingredients that are meant to accurately describe the character of the person who eats it. For instance if the dough ball has a light coloured ingredient in the centre then it is generally indicative of the person’s light hearted nature – the opposite can be said if the centre contains a dark coloured ingredient.
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The Dalai Lama plays an integral role in celebrations that take place during Losar. Important Tibetan monasteries give the Dalai Lama gifts of ril bu. Performers also perform traditional dances in order to convey their best wishes. Buddhism is reflected upon greatly during Losar and Buddhists are encouraged to introspect in order to reflect on the changes they can make in order to better serve the community, their families and themselves. The King’s Losar is an integral part of the Losar celebrations as it opens up communication with the surrounding Asian nations. Warm wishes are conveyed to China, India, Bhutan, Nepal and Mongolia. Other visiting dignitaries are also invited to join in the celebration in order to promote good will during the start of the new Tibetan year. Losar is considered to be the most important Tibetan celebration of the year.