Losar (Tib. ལོ་གསར་, Wyl. lo gsar) — the Tibetan New Year. It is celebrated on the first day of the first Tibetan month (Bumjur Dawa) of its lunisolar calendar. Hence, although the date in the Gregorian calendar changes every year, it falls in February or March. For Tibetans, age calculation begins with '1' at their day of birth, and increases by one year on Losar—a 'birthday' of sorts which is shared by all Tibetans.
The whole Losar period is traditionally a very important time for practice.
During the days leading up to Losar emphasis is put on practices that purify negativity, remove inauspiousness and avert obstacles. Especially on Gütor—the 29th day of the 12th Tibetan lunar month, which is also the second to last day of the year in the Tibetan calendar—rituals and practices are performed in monasteries and lay people's homes to this effect. On the next day—the 30th day of the last month of the year—this is followed by a ‘house cleaning day’, spent preparing one's house and shrine for the New Year and its celebrations.
During the days after Losar, practices are done in order to create auspicious circumstances for the coming year. Especially during the first fifteen days of the year, the Tibetan tradition celebrates the fifteen days on which, in order to increase the merit and the devotion of future disciples, Buddha displayed a different miracle. Chotrul Düchen, the 'Festival of Miracles' coincides with the full moon (the fifteenth day) of the first Tibetan month. In fact, during this whole first month (Tib. Bumjur Dawa), it is said that the effects of positive or negative actions are multiplied 100,000 times.
The Tibetan New Year is an event that is very much anticipated by all Tibetans for it is not only the beginning of a new year but, as we said above, a day when everyone becomes one year older.
Preparations are made well ahead of time, houses are cleaned or refurbished weeks before, images of deities are brought out from their shrines and wiped clean, in some cases their brocade and silk garments are replaced. New clothes are also made for the entire family to wear on Losar day. This is also a time to throw away old clothes, discard broken house wares and so on. All of these are done to ensure that Losar is celebrated with as much auspiciousness as possible and that those who celebrate it enter the New Year renewed and refreshed with hope of good fortune, good health and well being.
Losar predates the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet and has its roots in a winter sang burning custom of the Bön 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.
- In Tibetan, lo means year and sar is an abbreviation of sar po which means "new".
- Jampa Yangchen, "Losar, Guthuk and More", Tibet Foundation Newsletter No. 74, Spring 2019.
- Crump, William D. Encyclopedia of New Year's Holidays Worldwide. McFarland & Co (2013, p.237)
- Jampa Yangchen, "Losar, Guthuk and More", Tibet Foundation Newsletter No. 74, Spring 2019