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Tibet Travel Guide

Tibet Activities

There are many festivals in Tibet. From the beginning to the end of the year, there are more than twenty to thirty big or small traditional festivals. Festival days are great occasions for the family reunions, the social activities of young people and entertainment. It is also a good opportunity for people to show their art and performing talents. Traditional festivals have a long history and are closely related to religion. Now with the elapse of time, these festivals are gradually becoming more folk costume-oriented, entertaining and commercialized.

Tibetan New Year (Losar)
The first day of the first month in Tibetan calendar is Losar, Tibetan New Year, which is usually is in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. It is an important festival of the year for Tibetans. From the beginning of the twelfth month in Tibetan calendar, Tibetans start to prepare the needed goods for the New Year, among which the colorful drawing decorated cuboids Chima and some offerings are the most important ones. Chima is filled with barley flour mixed with butter and fried wheat and ginseng. On the top of the barley flour is inserted the highland barley head, the cockscomb and the colored flower plat made of butter. One day before the New Year Eve, a ceremony of exorcizing evil spirits is held. And in early morning of the New Year’s Day, Tibetans, men and women, in their best dresses, carry Chima to visit others to exchange New Year’s greetings and good wishes to each other, saying Tashi Delek which means the best wishes of auspiciousness and luck. In the next few days, they either go to monasteries nearby to worship Buddha, or meet their relatives and friends and sing and dance together to celebrate the New Year. Everyone is in the festival atmosphere.  

Lhasa Shoton Festival
On the first day of the seventh month in Tibetan calendar, or August in Gregorian calendar, Shoton Festival is held. Shoton means Yogurt Festival, and traditionally is to present Yogurt to the monks after their hard practice in spring time by their family members and at that time, people also sang and danced to celebrate the monks’ achievement. Starting from the early 17th century Tibetan Opera dramas have been performed on Shoton Festival. Tibetan Opera artists from different schools in all over Tibet gather in competition, which lasts for several days. On Shoton Festival, the Drepung Monastery also shows the large Thangka of Buddha on its hill.

Hill Circumambulation Festival
On the 4th of the sixth month in Tibetan calendar, people in the central Tibet celebrate the Hill Circumambulation Festival, which is a religious festival. People in their new clothes go to visit temples and circumambulate the hills around the temples to get the blessing of the Buddha. After that, they sing and dance and have picnic on the grassland.

Ongkor (Bumper Harvest) Festival
It is an occasion for Tibetans to express their hope for a good harvest. The Ongkor Festival is usually held before the harvest period and lasts 1-3 days. At the time, people in their colorful clothes uphold colored flags with good wishes. They make a pagoda of harvest with the khada scarves twining round the highland barley and the wheat ears. Beating drums and gongs while singing, they walk around the fields to pray for a bumper harvest. And then a horse race will be held. After the celebration of the festival, farmers start the autumn harvest.

Nima heap in Tibet.jpg

Fairy Festival

It is also known as “the Celestial Mother Festival” or “Belha Rapdrol” in Tibetan. Each year, on the 15th of the tenth month in Tibetan calendar, religious activities are held in temples throughout Tibet. Tibetan women consider this festival as a festival of their own; therefore, they love this festival very much.

Prayer flag in Tibet.jpg

Butter Lamp Festival
This festival is held on the 25th day of the 10th month in Tibetan calendar, which is November or December in Gregorian calendar. It is the day on which Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug Sect, got enlighten. On this day, every household light lamps on roofs of house and windowsills and chant prayers to commemorate Tsongkhapa in the evening.

Bathing Festival
It is in the 7th month in Tibetan calendar or in September in Gregorian calendar when the Venus appears in the sky. Tibetan people think the water of Lhasa River is especially holy and clean during this week. They believe that the dirt can be washed off, illness can be cured and their health can be improved. During the week, people all go to riverbanks for bathing, washing their clothes and playing at their pleasure.

Butter Flower Festival
The Butter Flower Festival is celebrated on the 15th of the first month every year. Monks from monasteries and local artists make various-shaped butter flowers with colored butter in pyramids and hang them on the shelves in front of Jokhang Temple. In the evening, after the butter lamps are lit, their lights look just like stars dazzling in the sky. The pyramids made of butter include flowers, immortals, animals, flying birds, and beasts.

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