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Festivals in Tibet

Losar - Tibetan New Year

*Time: This religious festival is celebrated from December 29 through January 15 according to Tibetan calendar.

*Venue:  Tibet or the Tibetan areas in Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces

*Origin: The celebration of Losar (Tibetan New Year) predates Buddhism in Tibet and can be traced back to the pre-Buddhist period. In this early tradition, every winter a spiritual ceremony was held, in which people offered large quantities of incense to appease the local spirits, deities and 'protectors'. This religious festival later evolved into an annual Buddhist festival because of the birth of traditional Tibetan calendar.

The legend said that tibetan calendar was created in 100 B.C or so by an old woman named Belma who introduced the measurement of time based on the phases of the moon.  Then local agriculture was developed, the ripe time of wheat was decided to be the beginning of a year by Tibetan people. They held the celebration for a harvest every year at the time.

Traditional Tibetan calendar, based on Chinese ancient calendar, Belma’s measurement and Indian calendar was completely built till early 9th century. Similar to traditonal Chinese calendar, the Tibetan calendar used five elements iron, wood, water, fire, earth and twelve signs of animals to caculate a year, month and day. 1027 A.C. was set as the first year of a new era when the Indian hour wheel scripts were introduced into tibet. Thus Tibet New Year or Losar started.

*What's On: It's interesting to learn these Tibetan folk customs through Losar. Losar is celebrated for 15 days, with the main celebrations on the first three days. On the first day of Losar, a beverage called changkol is made from chhaang (a Tibetan cousin of beer). The second day of Losar is known as King's Losar (gyalpo losar). Losar is traditionally preceded by the five day practice of Vajrakilaya. Although it often falls on the same day as the Chinese New Year (sometimes with one day or occasionally with one lunar month difference), it is generally not thought to be culturally directly connected to that holiday. It is culturally more related to Tsagaan Sar in Mongolia than to the Chinese New Year festivity.

*Main Tourist Attractions: Potala Palace, Jokhang Monastery, Norbu Lingka, Drepung Monastery, Bhakor Street, Lake Yamzho Yumco  etc.

*Transport: Tourist can go to Tibet by plane or train.

*Read more about Losar celebration in Tibet or book Tibetan New Year Tours.

Shoton Festival

*Time: From the late sixth month to the eighth month by the Tibetan calendar (about August every year)

*Venue: Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region

*Origin: In the Tibetan language, shoton means “yoghurt.” The Shoton Festival initiated before the 17th century. According to Buddhist doctrines, Monks are confined in the Monasteries for several dozens of days until summer is over. On the day when the confinement is ended, monks are entertained with Yoghurt by ordinary folks. As time went by, this religious activity gradually has become a folk festival. After the 17th century, the Shoton Festival is also called the “Tibetan Opera Festival.”

*What’s On : A variety of activities are held during the festival, such as displaying the images of Buddha, putting on Tibetan Opera, drinking buttered tea, taking yoghurt, appreciating the Buddhist image on display, and watching theatrical performances.

*Main Tourist Attractions: Potala Palace, Jokhang Monastery, Norbu Lingka, Drepung Monastery, Bhakor Street, etc.

*Transport: Tourists can go to Lhasa by plane or train.


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