Beginning usually on the 29th of December and lasting for two weeks is the Losar Festival of Tibet, the Tibetan New Year celebrations. Through the marriage of harmony and peace between the Han and Tibetan dynasties in 641AD, the Tibetan people began to adopt some of the traditional Chinese holidays and traditions. However in saying this the Tibetan Losar festival does not always fall on the Chinese New Year dates, it can occur on the same day, one day before of after or one month before or after. The date of this festival changes from year to year and begins on the first day of the Tibetan calendar when the new moon is sighted. It originally began as a type of harvest festival.
On the final two days of the old year, called Gutor, preparations for the celebrations begin. Houses are cleaned and special meals are prepared. The kitchen is considered a very important part of the house and is paid a lot of attention in the cleaning process. Dumpling soup and dough balls are made as a special tradition. A new special 'fragrant curtain' is hung above the main window and offerings such as dried fruits, tsampa, dough balls, fried barley and goats head are placed before the shrine inside the house for good luck.
The Losar festival is one of the most, if not the most, significant times of year for the Tibetans. It is a time for cleansing, to ward off evil spirits and welcome in a new year with positive energy of happiness and prosperity. At night the people burn torches and firecrackers to ward of evil spirits and ghosts that are around. The next day they will visit a monastery where religious ceremonies are performed and the people will make donations of money and gifts to the monks.
On the first day of Losar the people arise early, bath and put on new clothes. They will pray before their shrine containing new offerings with the family. The wives especially get up early to collect the first new water of the year and use it to create the meals of the day. This water is said to be very special and favorable toward the new year. They will attend the local monastery and offer prayers. Families will come together to share meals throughout the day and send each other gifts.
The second day is dedicated to 'King's Losar' when the Dalai Lama will exchange greetings with other leaders. The Tibetans use this day to meet up with friends and other extended family. They share special traditional foods including yak butter tea.
On day three prayer flags are hung on roof tops and in the mountains and the people will visit monasteries, shrines and stupas such as the Mani stones. Aromatic smoke is made with cypress, pine and sacred herbs as an offering to the Gods. Tsampa is also splashed into the sky for happiness, peace and good luck heading into the new year.
For the following two weeks the Tibetan people will visit with friends and have parties. The end of Losar occurs at the full moon when the Butter Lamp Festival takes place.