Tibetan People celebration Lokha New Year

Tibetan Traditional Major Festivals 2020

Tibetan people from around Tibet are preparing to welcome in the new lunar year 2020 and be ready to celebrate the major traditional festival in Lhasa and other parts of Tibet. The year of rat is the first in the twelve year zodiac according to Tibetan astrology. It is the beginning of beginnings and perfect time to officially celebrate. Here are major festivals and events in Tibet.

Losar (Tibetan New Year Festival) 2020

Losar, is the largest Tibetan festival in the whole T.A.R (Tibet Autonomous Region, China). Unfortunately, foreign travelers are not suggested to visit Lhasa and most other destinations in Tibet because Tibet permits are normally banned since March 2008 during Losar festival month. With the current outbreak of Novel Coronavirus in many places in China, and spreading to few other countries, Tibet major tourists attractions were closed to protect public people’s health. As usual the Losar starts on the 1st day of the 1st month in the Tibetan Calendar, and it lasts 1-2 weeks. On the eve of Tibetan New Year, the 29th day of the 12th month, Tibetans eat guthuk with their families. The New Year in 2020 begins on Feb.24 and it may last 1 month because people may have to delay to work due to the NCoV outbreak and schools may also open later than scheduled.

Butter Lamps in Monastery Tibet Tour
Tibetan Saga Dawa Festival 2020

A full month — the 4th month of the Tibetan calendar — honoring Shakyamuni Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. One’s deeds are considered multiplied during this time, so Tibetans often give alms to beggars and refrain from eating meat. The Saga Dawa Festival in 2020 is from May 23rd to June 21st. Saga Dawa Festival is an influential religious festival in Tibet. Saga Dawa represents April in Tibetan calendar. Buddhism believes that Sakyamuni was born, became Buddha and died in April, so the Saga Dawa Festival mainly focuses on worshipping Buddha in the inner, middle and outer parts of Lhasa. All the activities last through the whole month. The grandest one is on April 15 when the Buddhist followers walk around the outer part of Lhasa. They recite scriptures while walking on the 8,000-metre-long outer ring of Lhasa, forming a grand troop. Passing by mulberry stoves or fires, they add cypress branches, mugwort, Chinese photinia or zamba. At intersections of roads, they will put off their hats to bow towards the direction of the Potala Palace. In the afternoon, they all get together at Zongjolukang (Dragon King’s Pool) at the back of the Red Hill, where they boat, sing, dance and entertain themselves.

Saga Dawa Festival

Zamling Chisang Universal Prayer Day

In central Tibet, on the 15th day of the fifth month in the Tibetan calendar, Tibetans go to the tops of local mountains to burn incense and hang prayer flags.

Birthday of the 14th Dalai Lama

Tibetans everywhere celebrate His Holiness’ birth date with long life prayers, picnics and cultural performances, always on July 6th of the Western calendar.

Choekhor Duechen

Honoring the day that the Buddha Shakyamuni first taught the four noble truths in Sarnath, India, and first turned the wheel of the dharma. Also called drukpa tse shi, which means the 4th day of the 6th month of the Tibetan calendar.

Tibetan Traditional Shoton (Yogurt) Festival 2020

Tibetan Shoton Festival is especially famous at Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, where a huge thangkha (guku) is displayed on the hill next to the monastery and thousands gather to see it and pray before going on to picnic and hear Tibetan opera at the Norbulingka Palace grounds.”Shoton” in Tibetan means sour milk banquet. As Tibetan operas are performed and Buddha paintings are exhibited at this time, it is also called “Tibetan Opera Festival” or “Buddha Exhibition Festival.” The traditional way of starting the Shoton Festival is to show Buddha paintings. The main contents include Tibetan operas and gala parties, as well as wonderful yak racing and horsemanship display. The Shoton Festival starts on the 30th day of the 6th month according to Tibetan calendar (usu. later half of August) and lasts five days.

The Gelug Sect regulates that between April and June according to Tibetan calendar, Lamas can only practice Buddhism in monasteries to avoid treading and killing tiny lives. The ban will be lifted at the end of June. At that time, all lamas go out of monasteries and the laymen will offer them sour milk and perform Tibetan operas for them. After 1642, the Gandain Phodrang (Paradise Palace) of the Drepung Monastery became the political, religious and cultural centre of Tibet. Tens of thousands of people rushed there each June 30th to give sour milk to lamas and ask for blessings. The Tibetan Opera troupes and wild yak dancing troupes all came to perform. In this way, the Shoton Festival was formed.

The prelude of the Shoton Festival is the Buddha exhibition in Drepung Monastery, which is held at the foot of the Gebeiwoze Mountain. The tranquil valley becomes excited. With the sound of sutra bugle reverberating through the valley, about 100 lamas will carry the large-scale tangka portraying Qamba Buddha (or Maitreya) out of the Coqen Hall of the Drepung Monastery and step toward the west of the monastery where a special platform is set up for the Buddha picture exhibition. At this moment, the mulberry smoke arises from all directions, bugles resound and scripture reciting goes on. The large tangka then will be slowly opened up. People rush up to offer white hada. Countless hada fly in front of the Buddha picture, forming a great scene. In no more than two hours, the tangka will be rolled up again and carried back. People will not see it@until the next year. Then people go to the courtyard of Gandain Phodrang to watch Tibetan Opera. In the afternoon, the activities centre moves to Norbulingka. In the following week, the major activity is to watch the Tibetan Opera. During the Shoton Festival, the Tibetans bring along the old and the young and call on relatives and friends to Lingka gardens. The Norbulingka and other parks of Lhasa are dotted with colourful tents.Tibetan Traditional Festival 2020Nowadays, the Shoton Festival has become a comprehensive celebration activity with the most influences in Tibet. It is also a grand meeting for commodity exchanges.

Lha-Bab Duchen Event date: November 19, 2020
A day of prayer honoring the Buddha Shakyamuni’s descent from the heavenly realms to the earth. It is the 22nd day of the 9th month on the Tibetan calendar.
Tibetan Ganden Ngachu Festival, Event date: December 21, 2020
Anniversary of the death of the great Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetans make butter lamp offerings at home and in monasteries on the 25th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan calendar.