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While Chinese New Year celebrations have been going on across the world, in Tibet folks have been gearing up to celebrate their own New Year – known as Losar.
This year the Buddhist festival begins on Thursday March 3 and ends on Saturday March 5 – which coincides with the first day of the first month of the Tibetan lunar calendar.
Being the most important day in the Tibetan calendar it’s filled with tradition – but just how is the festival celebrated.
Here’s all you need to know…
Celebrations for Losar actually start towards the end of the old year, with the last two days before the New Year known as Gutor.
Traditions during this time include cleaning the house in preparation for the New Year, with special attention focused on the kitchen, as the place where food is prepared.
The hostess of the house will prepare a special soup, known as Guthuk, which is eaten during these days – which consists of nine ingredients including meat, rice, noodles, wheat, peas, yak cheese, peppers, sweet potato and radishes.
It is also traditional to place ingredients inside dough balls – including chillies, wool, rice, salt and coal – and hand them out to people.
The ingredients a person finds in their dough ball are meant to be interpreted as a comment on their character; if for example they find white ingredients inside it is taken as a good sign – but finding coal is the equivalent of finding a lump in your Christmas stocking, as it means the person has a ‘black heart’.
Tibetans will also attempt to ward off evil spirits on the first day of Gutor by lighting special torches at night, while the second day sees people visiting monasteries to pray and make donations to the monks.
The actual New Year celebrations last for three days, with specific activities on each of them.
On the first day, families will exchange gifts and gather together for a festive meal, likely to involve Khapse – special deep-fried pastries – and Chang, Tibetan wine made from barley.
Women who are cooking will do so with a bucket of water from a nearby lake or stream known as ‘golden water’ – the first water of the year, thought to be extremely auspicious – which will also be used for other family members to wash their faces.
On the second day it is customary to visit friends and relatives, taking with them qemar – a wooden container filled with barley and other grains, as well as yak butter.
There is more drinking of barley wine and singing at these gatherings, while it’s also traditional for men and women, in costume, to take part in outdoor circle dances known as GorShey.
The third and final day of the festival sees people visiting local monasteries as well as making offerings to the gods.
Although the main festivities end after this, celebrations continue throughout the month, with prayer flags being hung up across the country, as well as Tibetan operas, plays and shows being performed.
It is also seen as a good time of year for family and friends to spend time with one another.
Gtan Du Bde Ba Thob Par Shog – ‘happy and prosperous new year’
Lo Sar Bzang – ‘happy new year’
Losar Bey Tashi Delek – ‘prosperity and good will’
Kra Shis Bde Legs Phun Sum Tshogs – ‘longevity and good fortune’
MORE : Prince Charles and Camilla dress in red as they mark Chinese New Year
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