Tibetan New Year Losar

by MBC

This article is about the Tibetan holiday known as Losar and how it is celebrated around the world by Tibetans.

February 8th, 2016 on the Gregorian calendar, marks the beginning of the year 2143 in the Tibetan lunar calendar - 2013 was the Year of the Water Snake and 2014 was the Year of the Wood Horse, 2015, was the year of the Wood Sheep (goat or ram). In 2016 February 8th is Losar and is Year of the Fire Monkey. It's more important than ever that we wish one another "Losar Tashi Delek!" - or "Wishes for an Auspicious New Year." The date on the Western or Gregorian calendar falls in January, February or March and will vary year to year.

In Buddhist countries during Losar the people white-wash their homes (paint them), clean their houses, set intentions for the coming year, prepare special feasts and perform a sang chod or fire ceremony. The Tibetan New Year is known as Losar and is a time for starting fresh. Houses are thoroughly cleaned and decorated with lights and butter lamps. Often Losar celebrations can last two weeks to one month. Buddhists believe the first month of the New Year is a holy time when the merit of prayers and practices is multiplied 100,000 times.

Losar is DIFFERENT from Chinese New Year. The Tibetan people are a distinct nationality and there are some years when the two holidays overlap or occur on the same date.

Kapsay on Losar Alter

We Feast on a Tibetan sweetened bread called Kapsay during our celebration of the New Year
Celebrating Losar
Celebrating Losar

2016 is the Year of the Fire Monkey

This year the Losar celebration runs from February 8th through February 30th approximately.

In the Buddhist astrology or zodiac each month is associated with an element and an animal. Look at the personality of the monkey.  They are inventive, witty and intelligent.  They attempt to solve every problem and work well with others.  A monkey is playful so be cautious they can be tricky and are not always trustworthy. The element of fire represents energy - there will be lots of it in 2016. But be wise because fire can also burn you.

The Buddhist calendar runs in 60 year cycles. The five elements are fire, earth, iron, water and wood. The twelve animals are hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey or ape, bird, dog, pig, mouse or rat, bull and tiger. The teachings of the Kalachakra tantra deal a great deal with astrology and the calculations involved. The Kalachakra is also known as the "Wheel of Time". Try not to burn the candle at both ends this year, it will be a challenge

A Box for Treats to Celebrate Losar

2016 Year of the Fire Monkey
2016 Year of the Fire Monkey

Quoted from an email I received wishing me a Happy Losar – Tashi Delek

For Losar Tibetan families normally prepare Ku-thug.  Ku means nine and thug means soup. The number nine represents the 29th day of the last month on which this tradition is observed, and it also represents the nine ingredients which are used in the preparation of the soup. Before its preparation, we wash some barley and cut it into a coarse flour, which is then cooked in the soup. There must be 9 ingredients in the soup, and different variations exist for this recipe but some common ingredients are wheat, rice, vegetables, meat, potato, beans and dro-ma which is a wild root that grows in the upper Himalayan regions, similar to sweet potato.
The distinctive element of this gu-thug consists of balls of dough which are cooked in the soup, one ball for each member of the family. Inside these balls we put different objects which symbolize different qualities. Some objects used include a piece of yellow string which symbolizes that we have strong faith in the Bön and a good heart. Another object could be a piece of soft white wool, which symbolizes a gentle personality, kindness and overall good behavior, while a long piece of white string symbolizes patience. On the other hand, some objects carry negative significance, such as a piece of chili, which symbolizes a “hot mouth” indicating excessive or harsh speech. A piece of black coal symbolizes a “black mind” full of negativities, while a piece of wood symbolizes a thief. So each dough ball has an object inside and all of these balls are cooked in the soup, which takes hours to be ready, because the balls take a long time to be completely cooked.
Then the whole family sits down together to eat the soup and each person’s soup will contain one of these dough balls. Each person opens the ball and takes out the symbolic object hidden inside, and the object is said to describe the personality of that person. Families typically have lots of fun seeing what objects each person got and much joking and laughter accompanies this tradition.

Losar 2016 in Nepal

Losar 2016 in Nepal
Losar 2016 in Nepal
Photo credit to Yeshe Norbu

Hanging Prayer Flags is a Tibetan Tradition on Losar

Tibetan Buddhists usually hang new prayer flags at a sang chod fire ceremony held on Losar. Sometimes the old flags are taken down, or they can be left up until they completely disintegrate from the wind. The whole idea is that the prayers are taken to the enlightened beings on the wind. But if you prefer to take down the old ones they NEED TO BE BURNED in the fire. DO NOT THROW THEM IN THE TRASH BECAUSE THEY ARE PRAYERS.

La Gyelo translates Victory to the Gods

Happy Losar - Tashi Delek
Victory to the Gods
Victory to the Gods
Updated: 01/24/2016, MBC
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Did you learn something about New Years in a New Culture? Do you celebrate Losar?

MBC on 01/21/2015

Glad you enjoy learning about other cultures. Any questions let me know.

AngelaJohnson on 01/20/2015

I have never heard of Losar. I enjoy learning customs of other cultures.

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