New Year In Tibet
Tibetan New Year called Losar falls on the 25th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan calendar (late January or early February). Losar celebrations take place over a week. At this time, larders are stocked with grain and meat. It lasts year ahead even when no work is possible at the time of winters. New Year festival falls at the end of Dawa Chuchipda.
Legend of Losar Celebrations
According to a Tibetan legend, Singe Namgyar (an ancient king of Ladakh) decided to attack Skardo. As his eventual return from the battlefield was not sure, he chose Losar festival to be celebrated altogether. It was made mandatory for all the families to be present at the feast to celebrate the festival with mirth and revelry. All this happened in the 10th month and since then this festival is carried forward.
New Year celebrations in Tibet lasts for a couple of days. People eat sumptuous meals, offer prayers to their family deities and visit nearby monasteries. These celebrations begin two days before the New Year.
The last two days of the old year are called Gutor. It is only meant for New Year preparations. Tibetans start cleaning their houses thoroughly. Special care of the ‘kitchen’ is taken while cleaning the house and special new year dishes are cooked. The New Year delicacies include a soup consisting of nine ingredients – rice, wheat, meat, sweet potatoes, cheese, green peppers, vermicelli, peas and radishes. Dumplings are served with this soup. Dumplings contain paper, pebbles or scraps of wood which are used to tell the future ahead.
On the second day of Gutor, people visit monasteries to make offerings and give gifts to monks. They also participate in various religious ceremonies during the day. The most popular is the play in which the people perform masked dances. It symbolizes victory of good over bad. Crackers are burnt to light the darkness of the New Year and to scare off all the evil spirits.
New Year’s Day
On the first day of New Year, Tibetans get up early, take bath and wear new clothes. First, they worship the gods in their households and offer them food. These offerings are known as torma which consist of an animal and demons (made from a dough). After performing religious ceremonies at home, Tibetans visit monasteries and shrines to make offerings. Later, all family members sit together to have special New Year meals. It includes Kapse (a cake) and a warm alcoholic drink called chang.
Houses are decorated with flour paintings of the sun and the moon. People also make offerings to the moon for happy and prosperous life. At night, they illuminate the house with oil lamps.
On the second day of Losar, people visit their friends and relatives. Outdoor activities become the part of entertainment. People escalate the festival celebrations with traditional stage fights between good and bad. A famous dance of Ibex deer and the dramatic battles between the King and his ministers add joy to the festive mood. In the night, people whirl burning torches in their homes to cast away the evil spirits.