The Tibetans festivals

The Tibetans festivals

The new year or “Losar”

It’s the Tibetan new year, considered by the Tibetans as the most important festival of the year.
The Tibetans prepare the new year following a two parts ritual: one part is monastic and the other is popular. These rituals are celebrated in order to promise a happy year to the inhabitants.

The monastic ritual is used to sweep all the negative elements of the previous year.
In the Potala palace in Lhasa, this ritual takes place as follows:
  • On the 29th day of the 12th Tibetan month, the monks of the private monastery of Namgyal (the monastery of the Dalaï Lama located inside Potala) make a long prayer and a tantric ritual.

  • Then, during a dance called “Tcham”, they call the tantric protective divinities. This one lasts all the day and at the end, the monks transport the “Goutor”, a giant sculpture, during a procession outside the Potala.

  • Then, in front of the population of Lhasa, the monks burn this sculpture, in order to drive out the bad spirits and to eliminate the negative elements from the previous year.

  • The popular ritual lasts several days and proceeds this way: on the 29th day of the 12th Tibetan month, the Tibetans clean out their house and take “the Soup of the 29th day”, called Gouthouk. Then, the housewife distributes to each guest a pellet of Tsampa. The guests rub this pellet on all the body then leave the print of their hand on it. They gather then all the pellets of Tsampa around a human-shaped effigy, itself made of Tsampa and they place it outside the house. This ritual is used to move away the negative elements.

The New Year's Day

At dawn, Drekars (storytellers) are given the responsability to awake the population of Lhasa.
These storytellers sing and dance and they say that having them at one’s door the morning of the New Year's Day brings luck.
According to the tradition, if one finds them at one’s door, they should be offered a meal and cakes.

The family members then put new clothes on and meet.
The housewife presents her wishes of “Tashi Deleg Phunsourn Tsog”, which is translated into English by “happiness, health and may all the good things be joined together for the New Year's Day”.
They then eat Khabse and drink Djiatu and Changkhoel.

Offerings are placed in front of the furnace bridge of each house. One finds there :
  • Derga, which symbolizes the fertility and consists of Khabsé, fruits young growths of barley piled up.
  • Tchemar, which symbolizes a good harvest and which consists of a mixture of butter and Tsampa in a wooden bowl.
  • Changphu, which symbolizes an uninterrupted descent as a source which would run without stopping, and which consists of a mix of water and the first barley beer vintage: the Chang.
  • A head of sheep, symbolizing luck and fortune, made of butter or Tsampa.
In the morning, they pray and in the afternoon, they play, sing, dance…

The 2nd day

The Tibetans go visit each other in order to exchange their wishes, offer themselves Khabsé and taste Changphu as well as Tchémar.

The 3rd day

They place prayer flags, called Loungta, on the roof of the house and they make the fumigation ceremony, by burning a juniper tree.

The Saga Dawa festival

It takes place in May or June.
It is the most sacred day in Tibet, it corresponds to the birth and the instruction of Buddha.
Almost all the population of Lhasa walks downtown and at the end of the afternoon, the inhabitants picnic in the “ Dzongyab Lukhang ” park, located close to the Potala.

The festival of harvest

It takes place in September. The farmers of Lhasa, like those of Gyantse and Shangnan celebrate their good harvest.
Horse-races and folk, song and dance spectacles are organized as well as picnics, etc


One cannot evoke the festivities without evoking the music.
The music in Tibet foremost religious, it reflects the print of Tibetan Buddhism on the culture.
It consists mainly of songs in Tibetan or Sanskrit. These are recitations of sacred texts, which are heard during the various Tibetan festivals.


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