Get ready for Tibetan New Year! Festivities begin this year on the new moon February 27th and last for several weeks.
It’s Tibetan Year 2144, the year of the Fire Bird. A Fire Bird year can be controversial and colorful, marked by overly dramatic scenarios, where the ordinary is exaggerated out of proportion, and extraordinary situations go unnoticed. A Fire Bird is like the mythical Garuda bird. A Garuda bird is said to be born fully grown and is invoked as a symbol of impetuous violent force, speed, and martial prowess. From a spiritual point of view, this year of the Fire Bird is like a Phoenix in transformation, possessing the courage to root out any negativity or misunderstanding that the ego tenaciously holds onto, in order to fly up to higher realms.
People born in a Fire Bird year are said to be complex, passionate, fiery, and volatile. They get excited about everything. They tend to be hard working, ambitious, bright, impulsive, and headstrong.
Losar, the Tibetan New Year celebration, can be traced back to pre-Buddhist times when Tibetans practiced the Bön religion. It was an annual spiritual ceremony in which people offered incense to local spirits, deities and protectors. Lo means Year and Sar means Fresh or New. Traditional Tibetan Losar celebrations are observed for for fifteen days with incense, mantras, offerings to monasteries, monks, and lamas, prayers of atonement, as well as visits with relatives and having parties. Tibetan Buddhists mark the festival as a victory of good over evil.
To prepare for Losar, in the last days of the old year, people make efforts to pacify troubles and remove negativity from the prior year. During this time, Tibetan monasteries and temples perform special ceremonies to expel negative habits from the old year, so they will not be carried into the New Year. Lamas and monks do a week of rituals, often culminating in lama dances. In private homes, families prepare for the New Year by cleaning and making new clothes.
How to Prepare for Losar, Tibetan New Year
Clean and whitewash your house. Wash everything completely inside, especially the kitchen.
Replace old prayer flags with new ones
Visit your local monastery, make offerings of incense and prayers to Lamas and spirits. Pay your debts, atone for any misconduct, and resolve all negativity from the past year.
Sew yourself a new set of clothes to wear on New Years Day.
You’ll need a warm fur hat and some heavy coral jewelry.
Make yourself a new pair of yak leather boots to finish your New Years outfit.
Create a New Years altar in your home with 7 offering bowls to ask for wealth and abundance. The altar could have incense, butter, a Buddha image, a stupa, fruits, bread, Tampa, water, flowers, candles and sweets. Offer a white silk scarf or Khatak to the deities on the altar.
Perform traditional dances in ceremonial masks to dispel evil spirits and make way for a clean fresh start.
Throw roasted barley flour or Tsampa all around for good luck. Set off firecrackers outside the house to scare away any evil spirits.
Enjoy food with friends and family. Eat traditional dishes like Desi – ceremonial sweet rice, Guthuk meat stew with noodles, and Chang – fermented rice beer. Sing and chant traditional mantras. Dance with everybody in the community. At New Years people say: “Losar Bey Tashi Delek”, meaning “Prosperity and Good Will for the New Year”.