New Year, New Light

On the Tibetan Plateau, Losar, or New Year is the most celebrated event of the year, a time for family reunions, weddings and new beginnings. Debts are settled, quarrels are resolved, new clothes are acquired, and special foods are prepared, including a profusion of kapse (fried twists) which are included in the ‘derga’ an elaborate display of offerings that include everything from losar cards to fruit and candy. On this special day, the family alter is dominated by a rich array of light offerings, mainly butter lamps and in some cases, especially in the monasteries, butter sculpture.

Losar is nomad’s best time for leisure; animals are grazing nearby and feeding on oats, and they can indulge in cooking, catching up on news or matchmaking. The first day of Losar is typically spent at home, beginning early in the morning with offerings and prayers. The second day, people begin visiting each other, either in their village or further on, an activity that can extend into a pilgrimage either to the nearby monastery or further afield, to the holy city of Lhasa.