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Tibet festivals – Tibetan musicians  Many festivals have evolved and have gained great popularity among Tibetans, such as Tibet New Year, Great Prayer Festival, Butter Lantern Festival, Shoton Festival.

The most important festival in Tibet is the Tibetan New Year, the importance of which equals that of Lunar New Year among the Han people, or that of Christmas in the West. The Tibetan New Year is a festival to say farewell to the current year and welcome in the new. People begin preparing for this festival upon entering the 12th Tibetan month, with sacrifices being presented on the altar of their deities and special foods delicately made to welcome the coming year. New Year's Eve is also the time of the highly important Ghost Exorcising Festival. During this day, monasteries hold magnificent sorcerer's dances. Tibetans tidy their houses and decorate them beautifully, with the belief that the cleaning will drive away evil spirits and bad luck. In the evening, after everybody has eaten Guthuk (a kind of food for the New Year), it is time for the ceremony of exorcising ghosts. Torches and fireworks are lit to scare them off, and family members will walk along a road until they reach a crossroad where they believing they can abandon the evil spirits, the spirits being unable of finding the way back to the dwelling they had occupied. Then the New Year arrives. On the morning of the 1st day, local people will make butter lamps to be sacrificed, along with grain, to their gods. They will then don their best clothes and propose toasts with Chang (a Tibetan drink made from highland barley) to neighbors and exchange good wishes and on the second day, they pay a New Year visit to relatives. Usually, this festive event will last until the end of the Great Prayer Festival.
As the grandest of their religious festivals, The Great Prayer Festival is celebrated from the 8th to the 15th day of the first Tibetan month in Lhasa. With a history of over 500 years, it is now the highest religious seminar of Tibetan Buddhism. During the festival, they debate fiercely the Buddhist scriptures and hold religious examinations for learners of the Buddhist scriptures. Disciples from all over will come to worship the Buddha.

The Butter Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the first Tibetan month. During the daytime, people go to pray in temples and monasteries while at night there is a lantern show. Various lanterns with butter sculptures shaped in the image of deities, animals, plants, and human figures are displayed, attracting people from the neighboring areas to appreciate them. Often, there is puppet show held as well and the event will last for several days. The Butter Lantern Festival is believed to be the happiest festival in Tibet. The noisest place during that time is the around the Barkhor Street in front of Jokhang Temple, where many lanterns are displayed.

Religious Tibetan people, Lhasa Saka Dava Festival is observed on April 15th of the Tibetan calendar. This day is said to be the birthday of Sakyamuni, the Great Buddha, and the day he died and became a Buddha as well as the day of the arrival of Princess Wencheng (the queen to Songtsen Gampo, a great Tibetan king of the 7th century AD) in Lhasa. Many religious activities are held this day. People walk out of their houses and circumambulate around the Jokhang Temple and the Potala Palace. The three main circumambulation roads in Lhasa are crowded with devotees praying and prostrating themselves devoutly.

Shoton Festival, which means yogurt banquet in Tibetan, is the liveliest festival of summer. In the past, lamas locked themselves away in their monasteries during this season to devote themselves entirely to Buddhism for a month. When their devotions were over, lamas left the monastery to receive donations from the locals. Normally, people gave them yogurt, had yogurt banquets with them and made performances to welcome them. Nowadays, in the early morning of this day, people crowd into the Drepung Monastery to watch the unfolding of the Buddha. To Buddhists, this holy ceremony is a purification of the sprit and the soul. Later, this festive occasion is celebrated by performing Tibetan Opera in Norbulingka , so it has gained another name, the 'Tibetan Opera Festival'.

Harvest Festival, or Ongkor in Tibetan, often follows the Shoton Festival. It is a festival mainly celebrated in rural areas to pray for a good harvest. On this day, farmers put on their best clothes, carry harvest pagodas made from the ears of highland barley and wheat and circle around their fields beating drums, chanting holy songs and dancing. Then they will gather, drinking Chang and yak butter tea. In some areas, there are other activities as well, such as horse races, archery competitions and performances of Tibetan Opera. After the Harvest Festival, farmers will be busy harvesting their crops.

The Bathing Festival lasts for one week in the early part of the 7th month. Legend has it that pestilence was wide spread, leading to great suffering of the people. The Avalokitesvara, one of the Buddhist deities, poured holy water into the rivers of Tibet. After bathing in the rivers, people recovered miraculously from their illnesses. Ever since, at this time every year, people bathe themselves in rivers. This custom has been handed down from generation to generation and gradually developed into a festival. It is believed that river baths during this week will not only clean the body, but also wash away potential diseases. The Butter Lamp Festival which falls on Oct 25th of the Tibetan Calendar is another important religious festival for Tibetans. It is celebrated to commemorate the death of Tsong Khapa, the founder of Gelugpa of Tibetan Buddhism. During that day lamas would burn numerous yak butter lamps and a bowl of pure water in the temples and their houses, which brighten much the shrines. The religious people would circumambulate and burn aromatic branches or incenses to worship the Buddha.

See 2013 -2015 celebration date contrast of Tibetan festivals.

Comments and Questions

which paragraph talks about food?


1/9/2012 4:58:00 PM


Asked by farina (United States)

Wow thanks a bunch this was super helpful :)


12/14/2010 5:19:00 PM


Asked by JoJo (United States)