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HomeArt & CultureExploring Gyalpo Losar: A Deep Dive into Tibetan New Year Celebrations

Exploring Gyalpo Losar: A Deep Dive into Tibetan New Year Celebrations

Gyalpo Loshar Being Celebrated. –

In February, the people of Nepal, Tibet and many neighboring Asian countries begin preparations for a holiday known as Losar, which celebrates the start of the new year. The term Losar is derived from two words: Lo, meaning year, and Sar, the word for new.

The majority of Sherpa, Tibetan, Tamang, Bhutia, and Yolmo people of Nepal celebrate Losar. In particular, Gyalpo Losar is the occasion for celebrating the Tibetan new year. Although different communities in Nepal celebrate the festival in different ways, the following description is typical of Sherpa celebrations.

Why is Losar celebrated?

According to ancient lore, Losar was first celebrated when an old woman named Belma introduced the measurement of time based on the phases of the moon.

In the past, people would visit the nearby spring to carry out thanksgiving rites. Offerings were made to the local spirits connected to the natural environment, as well as to the Nagas, or water spirits, who triggered the water element in the region. These customs were customarily carried out throughout the course of a whole month before New Year’s Day.

How is Losar celebrated?

The Losar celebrations of today usually extend two weeks, overlapping with the waxing moon phase of the lunar cycle, Falgun Shukla Pratipada, and the full moon. Food, family, and festivities are the main focal points of the celebrations. Traditionally, Losar starts with participants making a particular Sherpa snack called khapse, which is a deep-fried pastry that is typically consumed throughout the celebration to mark the beginning of the holiday season.

A Sherpa family gets together two days prior to Losar to share a special soup known as “Gutung,” which is made with a blend of nine different types of beans. According to tradition, this soup should be served in nine bowls to each member of the family. A unique kind of dumpling called gutung is also served with it; instead of fillings, these dumplings have various hidden things inside of them. These secret objects, which can be odd things like wood, salt, or even coal, are humorously supposed to allude to the personality of the individual for whom they are selected.

Families get together to organize and decorate their houses the day before Losar. Upon the stroke of midnight on the same evening, friends and family share the customary “Tashi Delek” greeting and remain up late to greet the new year together. Many Sherpa alter their prayer flags, or Dhoja, in their homes the next morning, signifying a new year. The day ends with Changkol, a special drink created from Chaang, which is the Tibetan equivalent of beer. In addition to eating and drinking, people celebrate by dancing or singing according to traditional Sherpa tunes.

Losar festivities in Nepal

These days, Gyalpo Losar lasts for two weeks, however the first three days are when most of the festivities take place. People join together to carry on the party in the afternoon. Local monasteries host a number of ceremonial dances that depict the conflict between the gods and the devils. Everyone in the crowd passes around fire torches while mantras are shouted. Because of the joyous atmosphere and abundance of delectable food, sweets, and gifts, children frequently have the most fun during Losar.

In the evening, the celebrations wind down and families and loved ones all sit down to have dinner, marking the beginning of the new year. Although the traditions of Losar have adapted for modern times and busier schedules, the joy, energy and essence of Losar are still the same.

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