A Tibetan monk performance during Losar at Domthok Monastery in the Kham region
Also calledTibetan New Year
Observed byTibetans, Bhutanese, Ladakhis, Nepalese, Monpa, worldwide Tibetan Buddhists
TypeTibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhist, New year
Related toGaldan Namchot, Losoong, Gyalpo Lhosar, Tamu Lhosar, Sonam Lhosar, Mangfu other lunisolar new year festivals in Asia

Losar (Tibetan: ལོ་སར་, Wylie: lo-sar; "new year"[1]) also known as Tibetan New Year, is a festival in Tibetan Buddhism.[2] The holiday is celebrated on various dates depending on location (Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, India) tradition.[3][4] 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.[1] In 2024, the new year commenced on 10 February and celebrations ran until the 12th of the same month. It also commenced the Year of the Male Wood Dragon.

The variation of the festival in Nepal is called Lhosar and is observed about eight weeks earlier than the Tibetan Losar.[5]


Losar celebration in Lhasa, 1938

Losar predates the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet and has its roots in a winter incense-burning custom of the Bon religion. Tibetan new year is counted by the current year added to 127 BCE the year of the founding of the Yarlung dynasty. 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.[1]

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.[6]

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.[7]

Losar is celebrated in the city of Dharamsala in India[8] and in other Tibetan Buddhist communities.

The Gumpa dance being performed in Lachung during the Tibetan festival of Losar


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 equivalent 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,[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[1]

Losar customs in Bhutan are similar to, but distinct from, customs in neighboring Tibet.[12] 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."[12] Traditional foods consumed on the occasion include sugarcane and green bananas, which are considered auspicious.[12] In Bhutan, picnicking, dancing, singing, dart-playing, archery (see archery in Bhutan), and the giving of offerings are all traditions.[12]

The Dalai Lama blesses many Buddhists in Dharamsala during Losar, from the young to the old, and they form a queue[8] to manage the number of people who visit the Dalai Lama's temple to do this.


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 21 Male Earth Mouse/Rat**
2009 rab byung 17 lo 23 2136 February 10 Female Earth Ox[13]
2010 rab byung 17 lo 24 2137 March 1 Male Iron Tiger[14]
2011 rab byung 17 lo 25 2138 February 18 Female Iron Hare/Rabbit**[15]
2012 rab byung 17 lo 26 2139 February 8 Male Water Dragon
2013 rab byung 17 lo 27 2140 February 26 Female Water Snake
2014 rab byung 17 lo 28 2141 February 15 Male Wood Horse
2015 rab byung 17 lo 29 2142 March 6 Female Wood Sheep/Goat**
2016 rab byung 17 lo 30 2143 February 23 [16] Male Fire Monkey
2017 rab byung 17 lo 31 2144 February 11 Female Fire Bird/Rooster
2018 rab byung 17 lo 32 2145 March 2 Male Earth Dog
2019 rab byung 17 lo 33 2146 February 20 Female Earth Pig/Boar**
2020 rab byung 17 lo 34 2147 February 9 Male Iron Mouse/Rat**
2021 rab byung 17 lo 35 2148 February 27 Female Earth Ox
2022 rab byung 17 lo 36 2149 February 17 Male Water Tiger
2023 rab byung 17 lo 37 2150 February 6 Female Water Hare
2024 2151 February 10 Male Wood Dragon
* Note: Rabjung (Wylie: rab byung) is the name of the 60-year cycle of the Tibetan calendar that started in 1027 CE, and is currently in its 17th cycle.
** Note: These year names have more than one translation into English with different terms used by different groups.
*** Note: Losar is celebrated by some international communities at more or less the same time it is celebrated in Asia. For example, for a year when Losar starts on February 1 in Asia time zones, it may be celebrated by some in United States time zones on January 31. Losar celebrations are normally for three days.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d William D. Crump, "Losar" in Encyclopedia of New Year's Holidays Worldwide (McFarland & Co.: 2008), pp. 237-38.
  2. ^ "Buddhism: Losar". BBC. September 8, 2004.
  3. ^ Peter Glen Harle, Thinking with Things: Objects and Identity among Tibetans in the Twin Cities (Ph.D dissertation: Indiana University, 2003), p. 132: "In Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India and other areas where Tibetan Buddhism is practiced, the dates for Losar are often calculated locally, and often vary from region.".
  4. ^ William D. Crump, Encyclopedia of New Year's Holidays Worldwide (McFarland & Co.: 2008), pp. 237: ""Different traditions have observed Losar on different dates."
  5. ^ Tibetan Borderlands: PIATS 2003: Proceedings of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, Oxford, 2003, p. 121: "Yet though their Lhochhar is observed about eight weeks earlier than the Tibetan Losar, the festival is clearly borrowed, and their practice of Buddhism comes increasingly in a Tibetan idiom."
  6. ^ Gyatso, Tenzin (1988). Freedom in Exile: the Autobiography of the Dalai Lama of Tibet (rev. ed.: Abacus Books, London. ISBN 0-349-11111-1
  7. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (2002). Healing with Form, Energy, and Light. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-176-6
  8. ^ a b The Best of Photojournalism #21: 1995: The Year in Pictures. Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers. 1996. p. 142. ISBN 9781561387724.
  9. ^ Ligeti, Louis (1984). Tibetan and Buddhist Studies: Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Alexander Csoma De Koros. Vol. 2. University of California Press. p. 344. ISBN 9789630535731.
  10. ^ J. Gordon Melton, "Losar" in Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations, Vol. 1 (ABC-CLIO), 2011), pp. 530-31.
  11. ^ ANI. "Ladakh Buddhist Association celebrates 'Losar' festival in Leh". Retrieved May 18, 2021.
  12. ^ a b c d James Mayer, Losar: Community Building and the Bhutanese New Year Archived February 28, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Institution (February 15, 2013).
  13. ^ "Kālacakra Calendar". Kalacakra.org. July 27, 2013. Retrieved January 21, 2017.
  14. ^ "February 2010". Archived from the original on March 8, 2010. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
  15. ^ "Losar, Nouvel An tibétain en 2011 : année 2138 du Lièvre de Fer". Tibet-info.net. January 5, 2011. Retrieved January 21, 2017.
  16. ^ "Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute". Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute. Archived from the original on September 22, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2016.