To celebrate Losar with you from afar, we would like to share with you a traditional Tibetan song, sung by our friend and musician Guitsang Kalsang Tsering for this auspicious day of Tibetan New Year. This is a traditional song, particular to the local area of Larbrang, passed down orally over generations, with Kalsang taught by a woman and friend who is today 80 years old.
Tibetan new year, or Losar is marked by the first day of the lunar year and is the most celebrated festival on the Tibetan Plateau. It is a time for renewal, for bringing in the light and chasing the darkness.
Tibetans do not commemorate individual birthdays, but Losar is like a grand, common birthday party, where one wears new clothes and celebrates with family. Everyone becomes a year older at the same time, so that if one is born a week before Losar, he or she will be counted as one year old with the new year. Families rise at midnight, and begin by honoring the spiritual world, making offerings of light, to illuminate the new year at their altars. They also pass around a wooden container, a chema. It has two sections; ground tsampa on one side and grain on the other. Each family member throws a little in the air as offering, then eats a pinch worth, celebrating Tibet’s staple and sing a song to the harvest. Then, they circle their house and the penned animals with a holy book, blessing them all, and feed the dog a hearty meal. Finally, at 2 am, the family settles for breakfast, which that morning, will be a vegetarian meal. Omens will be closely watched on that day, and everyone will be on the lookout for favorable signs to indicate good things to come.
Losar will have been preceded by rituals to clear obstacles. Towards the end of each year, monasteries hold a ritual called Torkya, where they build a bonfire to destroy all the evil of the closing year, clearing the air for the new one. Homes are cleaned, in a gesture to rid their environment of physical and mental impurities.
Having shown their respects to the gods, people look to have a good time. Losar is the nomad’s best time for leisure; animals are grazing nearby and feeding on oats, freeing their owners from the chores of pasture. Losar officially lasts 15 days, though, especially in rural areas like Ritoma, it can go on for a month. The first two weeks are reserved for family and clan members, with reunions, visiting close friends and either holding or attending weddings. People cook, catch up on news or engage in matchmaking. The subsequent weeks are for more distant visits and pilgrimages, either to the nearby monastery or further afield, to the holy city of Lhasa.
Families who suffered a loss that year do not celebrate Losar. We pay a visit to each grieving family, making an offering of butter lamps, bringing some comfort and expressing our solidarity. Ritoma has a population of 230 families, around 1,500 people. Each year, someone’s elderly parents, aunt, uncle, or grandparent passes away. We like to remember those members of our community who have left us and offer our prayers.
དྲོས་དམར་མི་འགྱུར། Doemar Migyur, Male ≈68 years
རྒྱལ་དཔོན་སངས་གོ། Gyalpon sanggo, Male 71
ཨ་ནེ་རྟམ་ཏེ། Namte, nun, 93
ཆོས་སྐྱོང་སྐྱབས། Choekyong Kyap, male, ≈56
ཀླུ་མོ་ཐར། Lumo Thar, female, 74
འཕགས་པ་སྐྱབས། Pagpa Kyap, Male, ≈59
འཕགས་པ་སྐྱབས། Pagpa Kyap, Male ≈61
གཅོད་པ། Joepa, female, ≈85
མཐོང་ཡུལ་སངས་རྒྱས་མཁར། Thongyul Sangye Kar, male, ≈78
དགེ་འདུན་དར་རྒྱས། Gendun Thar, male, ≈71
འབྲུག་མོ་ཚེ་རིང་། Dugmo Tsering, female, ≈4
ཨ་ཁུ་ཆོས་གྲགས། Aku Choedak, monk, ≈75
བ་རྒན་བསྟན་འཛིན། Wagen Tenzin, male, 74
རྡོ་རྗེ་ཐར། Dorjee Thar, male, ≈58
སྟག་མོ་ཐར། Thakmo Thar, female, ≈52
ཕྱག་ཏེ། Chak Te, male, ≈78
ཀླུ་མོ་ཐར། Lumo Thar, female, ≈52
ཚེ་ཏེ། Tse Te, female, ≈93
ཕག་ཕྲུག་ཐར།, Pak Tuk Thar, male, ≈68
We look towards the coming year of the Ox with hope, wishing all health, happiness and prosperity.