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Tibetan Festival Custom

Deeply influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan festivals either have strong religious aroma or they are completely religious. Throughout history, under the harsh natural environment and hard working conditions, the people living on the snowy land yearned for a better life through their own efforts, with the God’s mercy and with the Buddha’s protection. It is the festivals that offer opportunities for them to express their prayer to deities, Buddha and nature, during which they amuse the Gods and themselves as well.

There are more than 100 major or minor festivals throughout a year. As long as you travel in Tibet for half month in any season, you will certainly to come across a festival there, and you will be amazed by festal revelry of the Tibetan people. The followings are some major Tibetan traditional festivals.

LOSAR FESTIVAL

Tibetan New Year FestivalTibetan New Year Festival

Tibetan New Year is the traditional holidays for the Tibetan. It’s called Gyalpo Losar in Tibetan which means “king’s new year”. The establishment of the Tibetan New Year has close connections with the use of the Tibetan calendar. The formal use of the Tibetan calendar began in 1027A.D. Tibetan traditional New Year is the greatest holiday in the year for the Tibetan. From the beginning of the 12 month of the Tibetan calendar, Tibetans begin to prepare special delicacies for the Tibetan New Year. Drosu chemar means “cereals container”. And it is the thing which must need on the Tibetan New Year. In the container are foods, such as Tsampa with the yak butter and roasted wheat seeds. And also during that all the people will dress very clean. And then from the 1st day of the year till the 15th day all the people will enjoy the Tibetan New Year.

SAGA DAWA FESTIVAL

Kailash Saga Dawa FestivalSaga Dawa Festival

The 15th day of the forth month in the Tibetan calendar is celebrated as the anniversary of the lord of the Buddha’s birth day, enlightenment and the death. During Saga Dawa Festival, the monks will hold religious activities and Buddhist will honor Buddha and chant sutras. People circumambulate sacred place in the clock wise direction and pray to the Buddha.

ZAMLING JISANG FESTIVAL

Dzamling ChisangUniversal Prayer Day

In English it means “world happiness day”. People celebrate the festival in the parks, and at the western suburbs of the Lhasa from the 15th day to the 20th day of the fifth month in the Tibetan calendar. It’s also known as World Worship Buddha Day, Dzamling Chisang or Universal Prayer Day. It says that every Buddha will descend to the world and assemble together. Especially early in the morning, and the people will go up on the mountains and there will burn the incent. After all, the people will go to having some picnic.

DRUK PA TSESHI FESTIVAL

Chokor Duchen FestivalChokor Duchen Festival

It is also known as the Holly Mountain Festival or Chokhor Duchen Festival. It is the festival to celebrate the day Sakyamuni first preached a sermon with prayer wheel. On this day, people with food go to monasteries and temples to pay their homage to Buddha, to offer joss-sticks and to circumambulate holy mountains. then there will have some picnics. Relax and enjoy them self. They sing and dance in the fields. They do not go home until the sun set.

SHOTON FESTIVAL

Shoton FestivalShoton Festival

In English it means “yoghurt banquet”. It is the one of the traditional festival with a long history in the Tibet. Since the activities of the festival include Tibetan opera dancing, it is also known as Tibetan Opera Festival. The Tibetan people usually celebrate the festival at the end of the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar. During the festival. All the residents of the Lhasa go out and gather in the summer palace”Norbuling Kha” park. They will set up very beautiful tent in the park. They will bring a lots of the food and snacks. and also the professional and amateur Tibetan operas.

KARMA DOEPA FESTIVAL

Tibetan Bathing FestivalBathing Festival

It’s the festival of the bathing. This festival is the traditional folk holiday of the Tibetan. This festival it is the seventh month of the Tibetan calendar. At this time, the raining season done and the day will be very sunny. During that time men and women, old and young, carry tents, curtains, beverages and food and go out in the high spirit.

TA GYUK FESTIVAL

Gyantse Horse Racing FestivalA Tibetan horseman is picking up Hada on the grassland.

In English it means horseracing festival. The horseracing festival is celebrated at the end of the seventh month or at the beginning of the eight month of the Tibetan calendar every year. Riders in the colorful ancient Tibetan customs and with bows and arrows are agile and brave. Horseracing is called as DAMA in Gyantse. In history, the most famous horseracing was (DAM JINREN) in Dam Shong grass land. It had a similar form to the DAMA in Gyantse.

ONG KOR FESTIVAL

Ongkor Festival in TibetOngkor Festival

In English it means “looking around the field” either “ harvest festival”. The festival has no fixed date. But it is usually celebrated when crops are ripe, and it lasts three to five days. During Ongkor Festival, people walked around the fields with scriptures. Now it has gradually become a festival mainly concerned with arts, sports and entertainments.

LHAPUP DHOE CHEN FESTIVAL

Walls are painted during Lhabab Duchen Festival.Buddha's Descent Day

In English it means the Buddha’s Descending Festival. It is one of the major Tibetan Buddhist festivals. The legend tells that the 22nd day of the ninth month of the Tibetan calendar was the day when the 33 – year – old Buddha sakyamuni preached a sermon to his mother in Tushita heaven and then descended to the world. This day every monastery is open for the whole day.

PELE RETOI FESTIVAL

Palden Lhamo FestivalTibetan Fairy Festival

In English it means Fairy Maiden Festival. And also other name for this festival is “PEL LHAMO PARADE FESTIVAL” every 15th day of the tenth month of the Tibetan calendar, monks carry the statue of the Pel Lhamo in her chapel of the jokhang temple and parade around Lhasa. During the festival, there are various activities to do with gods descending. Women are more active and they think of the festival as a holiday for Tibetan women.

In English it means “the remembrance of the master Tsong Kha Pa”. the festival will start at 25th day of the tenth month of the Tibetan calendar is the anniversary of the death of the master Tsong Khapa, the founder of Geluk pa sect. on this night of the day, countless butter lamps are lit on the roofs of every monastery and lay person’s house in order to commemorate Tsong Khapa. It is a religious service with illumination, and this is observed in every house.

GUTOK FESTIVAL

enjoy guthuk on Tibetan New Year’s Eve
Guthuk Festival

In English it means “banishing the evil spirits festival”. The grand sorcerer’s dance is held in the Potala palace on the 29th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar. Monastery in other places will hold similar activities, too. Monks with masks imitate demons and spirits, and walk around the jokhang temple. Singing and dancing, they fire shots and shout, to bid fare well to the outgoing year and to welcome the coming New Year. In the evening, each family eats “Thuk pa” together. People light lamps, burn joss-sticks and fired firecracker. The whole town is bright and it is very lively.

Noticeably, though with more identification than variation or distinction, the festivals mentioned above are not necessarily all celebrated in each place. It is the variation and the distinction that make the festivals splendid.

Master Catherine Jigme

About the Author - Master Catherine Jigme

With exceptional passion and outstanding leadership, Mrs. Catherine has dedicated herself to Tibet inbound tourism and China tour for 15 years. As one of the handful females who see great potential of Chinese inbound tourism, Catherine has made great contribution to promoting Tibet tourism and enhancing the employment of Tibetans and prosperity of local Tibetan community.

Over the years, she travelled overseas with Tibet Tourism Bureau many times to promote Tibet tourism. Currently, Catherine works as the marketing director of Tibet Vista, an opinion leader behind the whole team of Tibet Vista.

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