|Also called||Tibetan New Year|
|Observed by||Tibetans, Bhutanese, Nepalese, Monpa|
|Type||Tibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhist, New year|
|2021 date||12 February|
|Related to||Galdan Namchot, Losoong, Gyalpo Lhosar, Tamu Lhosar, Sonam Lhosar, other lunisolar new year festivals in Asia|
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Losar (Tibetan: ལོ་གསར་, Wylie: lo-gsar; "new year") also known as Tibetan New Year, is a festival in Tibetan Buddhism. The holiday is celebrated on various dates depending on location (Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, India) tradition. The holiday is a new year's festival, celebrated on the first day of the lunisolar Tibetan calendar, which corresponds to a date in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. In 2020, the new year commenced on the 24th of February and celebrations ran until the 26th of the same month. It also commenced the Year of the Male Iron Rat.
The variation of the festival in Nepal is called Lhochhar and is observed about eight weeks earlier than the Tibetan Losar.
Losar predates the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet and has its roots in a winter incense-burning custom of the Bon religion. During the reign of the ninth Tibetan king, Pude Gungyal (317-398), it is said that this custom merged with a harvest festival to form the annual Losar festival.
The 14th Dalai Lama (1998: p. 233) frames the importance of consulting the Nechung Oracle for Losar:
For hundreds of years now, it has been traditional for the Dalai Lama, and the Government, to consult Nechung during the New Year festivals.
Tenzin Wangyal (2002: p.xvii) frames his experience of Tibetan cultural practice of Losar in relation to elemental celebrations and offerings to Nāga (Tibetan: Klu):
During Losar, the Tibetan celebration of the new year, we did not drink champagne to celebrate. Instead, we went to the local spring to perform a ritual of gratitude. We made offerings to the nagas, the water spirits who activated the water element in the area. We made smoke offerings to the local spirits associated with the natural world around us. Beliefs and behaviors like ours evolved long ago and are often seen as primitive in the West. But they are not only projections of human fears onto the natural world, as some anthropologists and historians suggest. Our way of relating to the elements originated in the direct experiences by our sages and common people of the sacred nature of the external and internal elements. We call these elements earth, water, fire, air, and space.
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-Nepali 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. Because the Uyghurs adopted the Chinese calendar, and the Mongols and Tibetans adopted the Uyghur calendar, Losar occurs near or on the same day as the Chinese New Year and the Mongolian New Year, but the traditions of Losar are unique to Tibet, and predate both Indian and Chinese influences.
As well as that, the Sherpas are associated with Losar and enjoy Losar in the high altitudes of the Nepal Himalayan Range. Prior to the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950, Losar began with a morning ritual ceremony at Namgyal Monastery, led by the Dalai Lama and other high-ranking lamas, with government officials participating, to honor the Dharmapala (dharma-protector) Palden Lhamo. After the Dalai Lama was exiled, many monasteries were destroyed and monks imprisoned. Since that time, Tibetan Buddhist practice in Tibet has been difficult to observe publicly.
Losar forms part of the culture of Ladakh for Buddhists residing in that region.
In Tibet, various customs are associated with the holiday:
Families prepare for Losar some days in advance by thoroughly cleaning their homes; decorating with fragrant flowers and their walls with auspicious signs painted in flour such as the sun, moon, or a reversed swastika; and preparing cedar, rhododendron, and juniper branches for burning as incense. Debts are settled, quarrels are resolved, new clothes are acquired, and special foods such as kapse (fried twists) are made. A favorite drink is chang (barley beer) which is served warm. Because the words "sheep's head" and "beginning of the year" sound similar in Tibetan, it is customary to fashion a sheep's head from colored butter as a decoration. Another traditional decoration that symbolizes a good harvest is the phyemar ("five-grain bucket"), a bucket with a wooden board that creates two vertical halves within. This bucket is filled with zanba (also known as tsamba, roasted qingke barley flour) and barley seeds, then decorated with barley ears and colored butter.
Losar customs in Bhutan are similar to, but distinct from, customs in neighboring Tibet. Modern celebration of the holiday began in Bhutan in 1637, when Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal commemorated the completion of the Punakha Dzong with an inaugural ceremony, in which "Bhutanese came from all over the country to bring offerings of produce from their various regions, a tradition that is still reflected in the wide variety of foods consumed during the ritual Losar meals." Traditional foods consumed on the occasion include sugarcane and green bananas, which are considered auspicious. In Bhutan, picnicking, dancing, singing, dart-playing, archery (see archery in Bhutan), and the giving of offerings are all traditions.
The Tibetan calendar is a lunisolar calendar. Losar is celebrated on the first through third days of the first lunar month.
|Gregorian Year||Year of Rabjung 60-year Cycle||Tibetan Year||Losar Date***||Gender, Element, and Animal|
|2008||rab byung 17 lo 22||2135||February 7||Male Earth Mouse/Rat**|
|2009||rab byung 17 lo 23||2136||February 25||Female Earth Ox|
|2010||rab byung 17 lo 24||2137||February 14||Male Iron Tiger|
|2011||rab byung 17 lo 25||2138||March 5||Female Iron Hare/Rabbit**|
|2012||rab byung 17 lo 26||2139||February 22||Male Water Dragon|
|2013||rab byung 17 lo 27||2140||February 11||Female Water Snake|
|2014||rab byung 17 lo 28||2141||March 2||Male Wood Horse|
|2015||rab byung 17 lo 29||2142||February 18/19||Female Wood Sheep/Goat**|
|2016||rab byung 17 lo 30||2143||February 9 ||Male Fire Monkey|
|2017||rab byung 17 lo 31||2144||February 27||Female Fire Bird/Rooster|
|2018||rab byung 17 lo 32||2145||February 16||Male Earth Dog|
|2019||rab byung 17 lo 33||2146||February 5||Female Earth Pig/Boar**|
|2020||rab byung 17 lo 34||2147||February 24||Male Iron Mouse/Rat**|
|2021||rab byung 17 lo 35||2148||February 14||Female Earth Ox|
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