Tibetan New Year Festival

Tibetan New Year is the most significant festival in Tibet. Different areas have different ways to celebrate it, with Lhasa the most representative.

Before the Tibetan New Year, each household makes "qiema" (a wooden measure for grain), expressing the wish of good harvest and auspiciousness in the coming year. They will also make "kasai" (fried twisted dough sticks) in various forms, which looks golden and tastes crispy, and "luoguo" (a kind of food made of butter in the shape of sheephead), signifying thriving domestic animals and abundant life. In addition, they offer dried or fresh fruits, butter and brick tea to Buddhas.

On December 28-29 according to Tibetan calendar, all the families clean their houses and draw "eight auspicious paintings" on the centre of the kitchen wall. Before the dinner of December 29, they will spray lime in front of their houses to form designs of auspiciousness. On New Year's Eve, all family members will get together to have a big dinner. They will eat "gutu," made of beef and mutton, turnip and flour lump. What is interesting is that some stones, coins, salt, pepper, charcoal and wool are wrapped in the flour lump. When people eat, they have to be very careful to see what is in their next mouthful of food. The laughters fill the room at that time. After the dinner, they hold a ceremony to drive away ghosts.

On the first day of the New Year, the Tibetans get up early. Some even stay up through the whole night. But they could not go out so early. The first programme for them will be "scrambling for water." According to customs, the one who gets the first barrel of water at day-break is the luckiest one of the year. Only when the morning star rises and someone shouts "Lajieluo (God wins! )"can Tibetans rush out. Another important activity in the morning is to go to the Jokhang Monastery to offer sacrifices to Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism. On this day, people must wear the most beautiful clothes and the most precious jewels.

People don't visit each other on the first day of the year. Starting from the next day, they begin visiting relatives and friends, which will last three to five days. On the 3rd day of the 1 st Tibetan month, they offer sacrifices to the "God of Roof." All of them climb to the roof of their house and hang the new sutra streamer. Then they burn cypress branches and throw zamba into the air. Lhasa people go in groups to the Baoping (Treasured Bottle) Mountain in the east and Chakpori (King of Medicine) Mountain in the west to stick in scripture pole and hang sutra streamer to worship the gods of mountain and water. From the 4th day on, Tibetans start their largest religious festival - Grand Summons Ceremony, which will end on the 15th day of the 1 st Tibetan month. On the 5th day, farmers in Lhasa suburbs hold grand ceremonies to start ploughing.

According to traditions, the celebration activities on the Tibetan New Year will last 15 days.

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