Losar – Tibetan New Year

Every year certain cultures celebrate the heralding of the New Year according to their own calendars which they have been using for centuries. In Tibet, the New Year is known as ‘Losar’ and it is celebrated for a period of fifteen days. However, Tibet is not the only place where these celebrations are enjoyed. Many people also celebrate Losar in Nepal.

Losar, also known as Lhochaar in Nepal, is celebrated mainly by the Gurung people who are found throughout Nepal, including in Kathmandu. The celebration predates Buddhism in Tibet when Tibetans practiced the Bon faith. As part of this religion, a large spiritual ceremony was held every winter. During this time the people would offer large quantities of incense to local deities in order to appease them. After the introduction of Buddhism to the Tibetan people, this festival evolved into an annual Buddhist festival. The festival was said to have been started when an elderly woman introduced the concept of measuring time based on the different phases of the moon. The festival started during the flowering of the apricot trees in a particular region during the autumn months and over time this came to be known as the ‘farmers festival’. Later, when the people began to understand astrology, they were able to more accurately measure dates for the festival and it came to be known as Losar.

Today you will find that Losar in Nepal and Tibet is based on the Tibetan calendar. The calendar features twelve lunar months. It is interesting to note that while the majority of followers of the Tibetan Buddhist faith celebrate Losar on the first day of the first month, Tibetan monks in monasteries begin their celebrations on the 29th day of the 12th month. On this day the monks do a special ritual, after which they make a special noodle called guthuk from nine different ingredients. During this time the monks also give each other balls of dough in which different objects are placed. These various object are said to be light-hearted comments on the recipient’s personality. Then efforts go into preparing for the upcoming Tibetan New Year celebrations.

Today you will find that not everyone in Nepal celebrates Losar, despite the fact that many people living in the country are Buddhist. However, those that don’t will usually celebrate the Nepali New Year which falls within a similar time frame. Participants of the celebration usually calculate their age according to the Lho on the Tibetan Calendar. Therefore it is important for them to accurately keep this ancient religious ceremony.