Tag Archives: Tibetan calendar
Losar is the Tibetan word for “New Year” (“Lo” meaning year, and “Sar” meaning fresh or new) and it is THE most important holiday in Tibet.
The first day of Losar in 2014 will fall on March 2nd, which by the Tibetan calendar will be the first day of the Wood Horse year of 2141.
Losar is celebrated over 3 to 15 days, with main events occurring on the first three days when the moon is new. Festivities are a blend of secular and sacred traditions that date back hundreds of years representing the struggles between good and evil. Though the origin of Losar is not properly known, records state that the history can be dated back to the pre-Buddhist period.
Friends and family will celebrate with special foods and drinks, new clothes, and visits to Buddhist monasteries for prayers and New Year rituals.
Rituals are divided into two parts: First there is a closing of the old year, where we say goodbye to all of its bad aspects and negativity; and then we focus on welcoming the new year, and hopefully invite auspicious abundance into our lives and homes.
During the month before Losar, Tibetans will use white powder to sketch the Eight Auspicious Symbols on the walls of homes and monasteries. These symbols are representations of the offerings that the Gods made to Buddha as he attained enlightenment (a parasol, a pair of golden fish, a conch shell, a lotus blossom, a vase, a victory banner, the Wheel of Dharma, and the Eternal Knot).
New Year’s Eve – Nyi Shu Gu. On the evening of the last night of the year, the 29th day of the Tibetan calendar, the monasteries perform special rituals to appease the deities and to protect all people for the year ahead. Nyi Shu Gu is a time to cleanse adversities, obstacles, uncleanliness and sickness. People serve a special noodle soup called Guthuk, which is actually based upon a traditional noodle soup, Thukpa Bhatuk.
So what distinguishes Guthuk from Thukpa Bhatuk? Three things:
- First, that it is the ONLY Tibetan food eaten once a year – on the 29th day of the last month of the year on the Tibetan calendar. “Gu” in Tibetan means nine, and “Thuk” refers to noodles – so Guthuk is the noodle soup eaten on the twenty-ninth day.
- Second, in keeping with the meaning of “Gu” the soup traditionally has nine ingredients.
- Lastly, this soup has dumplings. Tucked within each of these dumplings is one of nine fortune symbols: chili pepper, cotton ball, wood, charcoal, sugar, wool, paper, pebble or raw bean. The object that a person finds in his/her dumpling is believed to determine either the character of the person, or her/his fortune in the coming year. Coal is something you don’t want to get!
Day 1 – New Year’s Day – Lama Losar. The devout Tibetan Buddhist begins the new year by wishing the Dalai Lama good luck for the coming year, and by honoring his or her Dharma teacher. 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. Lay people visit friends to wish them Tashi Delek “auspicious greetings” or loosely, “very best wishes.”
Day 2 – Gyalpo Losar. 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.
Day 3 – Choe-kyong Losar. On this day, lay people make special offerings to the Dharma protectors and to the monks at their monasteries. They raise prayer flags from hills, mountains and rooftops and burn juniper leaves and incense as offerings. The monks often bless people by marking their foreheads with white powder.
This pretty much wraps up the spiritual side of Losar, however, the subsequent partying may go on for another 10 to 15 days ending with Chunga Choepa, the Butter Lamp Festival, which occurs when the moon is full.
Two things come to mind as I ponder the start of a New Year:
- I pray that with this New Year we find continued hope and renewed action in saving the Tibetan people and their heritage. Maybe this will be the year that the world leaders say, enough, we won’t stand by and watch innocent people die. Maybe this will be the year that we help others selflessly rather than for how they can benefit us.
- Losar reminds me that each new year is an echo of the changing cycles and of the true nature of impermanence. Everything that is born is bound to die. The old year is gone and will never exist again. The new year gives us the opportunity to come together and celebrate; to notice and appreciate each moment, in the moment, and to realize the blessings of the teachings.
Lha Gyal Lo (May the Divine Prevail) ~ Bhod Gyal Lo (Victory to Tibet)
May all beings be happy and well, as we celebrate Tibetan New Year.
May we strive to walk in mindful Beauty.