Losar is the Tibetan New Year. Losar is the most important holiday in Tibet, Nepal and Kingdom of Bhutan and is celebrated by Tibetan Buddhists Worldwide.
In the Tibetan language, “Lo” means “Year” and “Sar” means “New”.
Losar is a three-day festival that mixes sacred and secular practices — prayers, ceremonies, hanging prayer flags, sacred and folk dancing, partying.
The three days of Losar are – Day 1: Lama Losar, Day 2: Gyalpo Losa and Day 3: Choe-kyong Losar.
Losar occurs nearly on the same day as the Chinese New Year and the Mongolian New Year, but the traditions of Losar are unique to Tibet, and predates both Indian and Chinese influences.
The Tibetan calendar is lunisolar and almost identical to the Chinese calendar.
Losar – Tibetan New Year Celebrations :
The celebrations of the Tibetan New Year start two days before the New Year’s Day i.e, on the 29th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar – day before Tibetan New Year’s Eve.
The last two days of the old year are called as Gutor and during this period people of Tibet begin to prepare for the New Year.
The first day of Gutor is spent doing the house cleaning, especially the Kitchen. On this day, Tibetan families eat ‘Guthuk’ a soup with dumplings, in the evening.
On that day monasteries hold a special kind of ritual in preparation for the Losar celebrations.
The last day of the year is a time to clean and prepare for the approaching New Year. On this day religious ceremonies are held. People go to visit the local monastery to worship and give gifts to the monks.
On this day, Tibetans also set off firecrackers to get rid of evil spirits, which are believed to be lurking around.
Day 1: Lama Losar
On the first day of the new year, Tibetans honor their dharma teacher. Guru and disciple greet each other with wishes of peace and progress. It is also traditional to offer sprouted barley seeds and buckets of tsampa (roasted barley flour with butter) and other grains on home altars to ensure a good harvest. On this day people wish each saying Tashi Delek which means “auspicious greetings” or “very best wishes.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other high lamas gather in a ceremony to make offerings to the high dharma protectors (dharmapalas), in particular the dharmapala Palden Lhamo, who is a special protector of Tibet. The day also includes sacred dances and debates of Buddhist philosophy.
Day 2: Gyalpo Losa
The second day of Losar, called Gyalpo or “King’s” Losar, is for honoring community and national leaders. Long ago it was a day for kings to hand out gifts at public festivals. In Dharamsala, His Holiness the Dalai Lama exchanges greetings with officials of the Tibetan government in exile and with visiting foreign dignitaries.
Day 3: Choe-kyong Losar
Ffrom the third day onwards, the people and monks begin to celebrate and enjoy the festive season. On this day, people raise prayer flags from hills, mountains and rooftops and burn juniper leaves and incense as offerings. The dharmapalas are praised in chant and song and asked for blessings.
This ends the spiritual observance of Losar but the festivities often continue until Chunga Choepa, the Butter Lamp Festival which is held 15 days after Losar.
In 2017, Tibetan New Year will be celebrated on Monday, February 27, 2017. The day will mark the start of Tibetan Year 2144 and the year will be know as Year of Rooster (Bird).