How to Enjoy China Tibet Nepal Tour during Various Festivals
A festival tour of China, Nepal, and Tibet is something that can help travelers understand more about the culture and religious backgrounds of the people. Religion is closely interwoven with culture in most Asian countries, and the festivals are one way of exploring both the culture and the religions in more depth.
Travelers to China, Nepal, and Tibet should try to go traveling during the main festival season, which is normally throughout the summer months, though there are still many festivals that happen throughout the year, including the New Year festivities which normally occur in February. And foreign tourists are always welcome to take part in the festivities, and experience what it is like to live as a local does and learn more about the culture of the people.
Top 4 Festivals in Mainland China
While there are hundreds of festivals across China every year, there are a few that are more popular or more exuberant than the rest, and these are really the festivals you should not miss if you are visiting China.
The Spring Festival, or Chinese New year, normally occurs on the first day of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, which is normally in February. Celebrations normally last from the day before New Year to around the fifteenth day of the first month, and it is one of the most widely celebrated festivals in the world. The Spring Festival is a time of holiday in China, and has had a strong influence on the neighboring countries throughout the millennia.
It is a time of travel home for many Chinese that live away from their families, and most of the transport centers in China are packed with people heading home for the holidays. Somewhat akin to Christmas in the western world, there are certain traditions to the Spring Festival in China. And while Beijing and Shanghai are often rated as the best places to celebrate the Chinese New Year in China, smaller places have a more traditional atmosphere, and it is less of a commercial celebration.
Dragon Boat Festival
The Dragon Boat Festival, known in China as the Duanwu Festival, is traditionally held close to the summer solstice in China, and commemorates filial piety and fealty. Dating back over 2,300 years, the festival now celebrates with dragon boat racing, eating zongzi, and drinking the realgar wine made from cereals and colored a deep yellow from the powdered realgar that is added. For the most incredible sight in the Dragon Boat Races, Hong Kong is probably the most spectacular.
Eating zongzi in Dragon Boat Festival
One legend says that the origins came from the death of the famous poet, Qu Yuan, who was exiled for alleged treason, and when the Qin State invaded his new home, he committed suicide in the river. It is said that thousands of people took to their boats the try and rescue him, and when his body as not found, dropped balls of sticky rice into the waters for the fish to eat, instead of the poet’s body.
China's Lantern Festival
Celebrated on the fifteenth day of the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival is a major part of the Spring Festival celebrations, marking the end of the New Year festivities. Dating back over 2,000 years, the festival celebrates the end of the Spring Festival by lighting lanterns that float up into the air, and you can see thousands of them rising up from every city in China at the same time.
China's Lantern Festival
On the last night of the Spring Festival, all the decorations are taken down, and fireworks are lit to celebrate the first full moon of the Chinese calendar. Lion and Dragon dances parade through the streets, and the lanterns are lit and let go into the air, as was decreed by the Emperor Hanmingdi almost 2,000 years ago. Some of the best lanterns, which come in all shapes and sizes, can be found in Guangzhou, in Yuexiu Park, and at Qinhuai Scenic Zone in Nanjing, which is known as the biggest lantern festival in China.
Popular for the eating of Moon Cakes, the Mid-Autumn Festival in China is a harvest festival to celebrate the Gathering, Thanksgiving, and Praying that are the three fundamental concepts. Originally set at the time of the harvest in China, the celebrations are centered around the harvest, and are similar to harvest festivals around the world, many of which have been influenced by the Chinese festival.
Eating moon cake in Mid-Autumn Festival
The festival originated more than 3,600 years ago, during the Shang Dynasty, and began with the worship of the mountain deities after the harvest was done. It is also associated with the moon, as moon worship is about rejuvenation and new beginnings. The festival is a time for family and reunion, and people hold dragon dances and light incense. The best place to celebrate the Moon Festival, as it is also known, is in Fenghuang Mountain in Hangzhou, where the full moon shines down to create an image through a hole in the stone on the clifftop.
Top 4 Festivals in Tibet
Tibet is a place of deep Buddhist religious beliefs, and the celebration of festivals, both folk and religious, is a major event every time. Tibetans are devout Buddhists, and this is the main part of their unique culture, making the religious festivals of important significance to all the people.
The most important festival in the Tibetan calendar is the Losar festival, or Tibetan New Year. Celebrated with lots of singing and dancing, the festival is all about the struggle between good and evil, and families spend the night before the New Year expelling any evil spirits from their homes.
Losar Festival in Tibet
Houses are cleaned and food is cooked the day before, and on the first day of the year, they bathe and put on new clothes and worship the gods by placing offerings in front of their houses. Families have reunions at the main family home, and people travel home for the festival from all over China, exchanging gifts between family members. - See detailed itinerary of 7 Days Tibet New Year Festival Tour
Saga Dawa Festival
Known as the month of merits, the Saga Dawa Festival is one of the most prominent festivals in Tibet, as it celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha. Tibetan Buddhists believe that their good actions are multiplied at this auspicious time, and many people celebrate the festival with pilgrimages to the sacred lakes, mountains, and temples across the region.
Saga Dawa Festival
The best place to see the festivities and ceremonies that surround the festival is at Mount Kailash, in Ngari Prefecture in western Tibet, where many thousands of Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims make the kora trek around the sacred mountain, and the lamas are dressed in full costume to perform the ceremonies at the flagpole at Tarboche, to the south of the mountain. - See detailed itinerary of 15 Days Tour Kailash in Saga Dawa Festival
The Shoton Festival, also known as the Yogurt Festival, is a major celebration in the Tietan calendar. It marks the end of the Yarne period, a 100-day fasting period for the Tibean Buddhist monks, where they abstain from all meat and animal products and take greater care not to damage any animals. The festival was originally a wholly religious festival, thanking the monks for their 100 days of sacrifice for the good of all beings around the world, and the people would give milk curds to the monks to help them get over their fast.
Nowadays, milk curds have become yogurt, a popular food in Tibet, and are the main theme of the festivities. Drepung Monastery is one of the best places in Lhasa to see the celebrations, and a huge thangka painting is unveiled on the hill behind the monastery, for the people to worship at and pray for good fortunes. Once the religious ceremonies are done, and the thangka is rolled up for another year, the celebrations begin, with lots of eating and many Tibetan operas being played for the crowds of thousands that turn up for the festival. - See detailed itinerary of 5 Days Shoton Festival Experience Tour
Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival
Also known as the Gaden Ngachen Chenmo Festival, the Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival is celebrated in commemoration of the death of the great guru Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism. The festival falls on the 25th day of the tenth month in the Tibetan calendar, and during the celebration, the monks and the people light up lanterns made from yak butter all across the region. Temples and monasteries are filled with burning candles, and in Lhasa’s Barkhor Street, the windowsills along the roadside are filled with butter lanterns that burn through the night. - See detailed itinerary of 5 Days Gaden Ngachen Chenmo Festival Tour
Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival
Top 4 Festivals in Nepal
As you travel in Nepal, the last thing you need to worry about is whether or not you come at the right time for the lively festivities. Well, according to the survey conducted by Nepal Tourism Board, each year approximately over 300 festivals are held in Nepal, which makes Nepal the only country in our world that has the most festivals in every year.
It’s often the case that before you find out what is happening around you, you have already found yourself in the crowds of wild celebration. So, before you pack to enjoy the exotic cultural festivities in Nepal, do time your visit for the following top 4 Nepal festivals.
Dasain Festival (15th day in Sept.or Oct.)
Undoubtedly, Dasain or Dashain is the biggest and grandest annual festival in Nepal, quite similar to what Spring Festival means to Chinese, though with different legends and cultural significance. The grand celebration is observed to honor the goddess Durga’s victory over demons. The bloody side of the festival is that for religious purpose, a great number of buffalo will be slaughtered to honor the Durga.
Meanwhile, Nepali people will enjoy a public holiday that lasts for 15 days. The elderly will put an auspicious red Tika on children’s forehead. To a great surprise, just like what Chinese do, tens of thousands of Nepalis would come back home for a family reunion. And many local business will close for the celebration. Do book your hotel and other services ahead of time. The celebration culminates at the ninth and tenth day when many animals are sacrificed and the elderly and seniors of the family offer blessings to the younger generation.
Tihar (late Oct. or early Nov.)
As the second most important Hindu festival in Nepal, Tihar is observed as a special light festival to show care not only to human beings but also to living creatures like crows, dogs and cows and bullock. Nepalis will adorn these small animals with wreaths of marigolds and put the lucky red Tika on their forehead as well.
The festival lasts for 5 days with completely different rules to follow. From offering rice for crow to treating nicely to dog, believed to be the gatekeeper of the underworld and gaining blessings from the Laxmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and finally family reunion dinner and lighting oil lamps, it would be a great opportunity for exotic cultural experience.
Holi Festival (Feb - March)
Perhaps, too many, the biggest impression about Nepal comes from the engaging photos of colorful fight taken during the famous Holi Festival. Yes, overflowing with carnival atmosphere, the Holi Festival is a perfect occasion for global photographers and merrymaking. The festival falls on the full-moon days in the month of Falgun.
The colored powder and water are splashed over a people’s entire body as a special way of delivering blessings and goodwill and universal love for all beings. For foreign visitors, you are expected to enjoy a big amount of blessing. Do have a full preparation for your camera gears, because no one is immune to the massive color powder fight.
Indra Jatra (July - August)
Indra Jatra, also known as Yenya, features the wildest carnival procession in Nepal. The grand celebration falls into two parts, the pole-raising ceremony and the procession of virgin living goddess on the holy chariot. You can witness a huge turnout for the pole-erecting outside Hanuman Ohoka in Kathmandu and gaining the blessings from the living goddess. Overall, the boisterous festival marks the end of monsoon and expresses people’s wish for bumper harvest in the coming fall. Highly recommended for international tourists to join the festival march and witness the auspicious Kumari, the living goddess of Kathmandu.