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Tibetan New Year, also known as the Losar Festival, is the most important holiday in Tibet. It is celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, around March, for 15 days where the main celebrations concentrate on the first three days. Because Tibetans believe in Buddhism, the celebrations are mainly religious.
Origin of Tibetan New Year
The Tibetan New Year has a history which can be traced back to the Tibetan pre-Buddhist period. At that time, Tibetans would hold a spiritual ceremony every winter where people burned large quantities of joss sticks (also known as incense) to please the local spirits and protectors. Gradually, it evolved into an annual Buddhist festival characterized especially by dancing, singing, religious practices, and other entertainment activities.
New Year Food
Every household will prepare Qie Ma, an assortment of glutinous rice cakes and stir-fried kernel placed in colorful wooden boxes. In the middle, colorful flowers and highland barley spikes are stuck as decorations. People will also soak highland barley seeds in a bowl of water so that it will grow small shoots during the New Year. Then it will be placed in front of the altar as an offering as part of prayers for a plentiful harvest.
When the New Year approaches, in addition to cooking barley wine, Tibetan women will also make Ka Sai, a kind of pastry stir fried with butter. There are popularly crafted into shapes such as ears, butterflies, slices, squares, and circles. The pastry is then dyed using natural colors and sprayed with granulated sugar. Ka Sai is not only a decoration for the New Year, but also snacks for guests.
New Year Celebrations
The last day of the year is a time for cleaning the house and making preparations for the New Year. After cleaning, Tibetans proceed to have a family reunion dinner together, much like during the Spring Festival.
On the first day of the New Year, people will wake up early and dress up in their holiday best. The housewife wakes the earliest. After cooking barley wine for the family, she will bring a bowl of it to each family member. The family members will drink up the wine and go on sleeping. The housewife then waits by the window for sunrise. When the sun shines its first ray, she will quickly grab a bucket and rush to the river or water well to fetch the first bucket of water of the New Year. It is believed that the water at this time is the cleanest and the most sacred, therefore it will bring many blessings and good luck for the whole family. Outside of the household and in the community, the first day of the New Year brings a number of events. Many religious activities are held such as chanting sutras, hosting big banquets, and worshipping.
On the second day, people will visit their friends and relatives to give them their best wishes. In the evening, everyone gathers together to sing, dance, and burn torches which they pass through the crowds to cast away evil spirits and pray for blessings. On the third day and onwards, people visit the monasteries to celebrate the festivities with the monks. In total, the celebration of the Tibetan New Year lasts for 15 days.
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