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For other traditions of celebrating the lunar new year, see Lunar New Year (disambiguation).
Also called Lunar New Year (as a collective term including other Asian Lunar New Year festivals, used outside of Asia.)
Tibetan New Year
Observed by Tibetans, Bhutanese, Yolmo, Sherpas, Acharya, Gurung, Bhutia, certain other Himalayan peoples and their diasporas
Type Cultural, Buddhist
2016 date February 9, Monkey
2017 date February 27, Bird/Rooster[A]
2018 date February 16, Dog
2019 date February 5, Boar/Pig/Deer[B]
Frequency Annual
Related to Chinese New Year, Japanese New Year, Mongolian New Year, Korean New Year, Vietnamese New Year

Losar (Tibetan: ལོ་གསར་Wylie: lo-gsar) is the Tibetan word for "new year". lo holds the semantic field "year, age"; sar holds the semantic field "new, fresh".[citation needed] Losar is an important holiday in Tibet, Bhutan and for certain ethnic groups in Nepal [4][5] Before the Tibetan New Year, "Nam-Ghang" is celebrated on the eve of the last night of the year.

Losar is celebrated for 15 days, with the main celebrations on the first three days. On the first day of Losar, a beverage called changkol is made from chhaang (a Tibetan cousin of beer). The second day of Losar is known as King's Losar (gyalpo losar). Losar is traditionally preceded by the five-day practice of Vajrakilaya. Because the Uyghurs adopted the Chinese calendar, and the Mongols and Tibetans adopted the Uyghur calendar,[6] Losar occurs near or on the same day as the Chinese New Year and the Mongolian New Year, but the traditions of Losar are unique to Tibet, and predate both Indian and Chinese influences. Originally, ancient celebrations of Losar occurred solely on the winter solstice, and was only moved to coincide with the Chinese and Mongolian New Year by a leader of the Gelug school of Buddhism.[7]

Losar is also celebrated by Yolmo, Sherpa, Tamang, Gurung, Bhutia, Monpa, Sherdukpen and certain other Himalayan people although different regions of the Himalayan countries have their own respective new year celebrations as well. Losar is also celebrated by Tibetan Buddhists worldwide. Yolmo Losar is observed on the same day as of the Chinese New Year.

Dates vary between different ethnic groups, the Tamang New Year of "Sonam Losar", for instance, coincides with Chinese New Year occurring one day later, while the Gurung New Year or "Tamu Losar" occurs in December each year, the Tibetans, Bhutanese and other groups' Losar celebrations often fall around Chinese New Year or a month later.[8]


Losar celebration in Lhasa, 1938

The celebration of Losar predates Buddhism in Tibet and can be traced back to the pre-Buddhist Bön period. In this early Bön tradition, every winter a spiritual ceremony was held, in which people offered large quantities of incense to appease the local spirits, deities and 'protectors' (Tibetan: chos skyong; Sanskrit: dharmapalas). This religious festival later evolved into an annual Buddhist festival which is believed to have originated during the reign of Pude Gungyal, the ninth emperor of Tibet[disambiguation needed]. The festival is said to have begun when an old woman named Belma introduced the measurement of time based on the phases of the moon. This festival took place during the flowering of the apricot trees of the Lhokha Yarla Shampo region in autumn, and it may have been the first celebration of what has become the traditional farmers' festival. It was during this period that the arts of cultivation, irrigation, refining iron from ore and building bridges were first introduced in Tibet. The ceremonies which were instituted to celebrate these new capabilities can be recognized as precursors of the Losar festival. Later when the rudiments of astrology, based on the five elements, were introduced in Tibet, this farmer's festival became what we now call the Losar or New Year's festival.

Losar is also known as Bal Gyal Lo. Bal is Tibet, Gyal is King, Lo is year. The Tibetan new year has been celebrated since the first King's enthronement celebration. It was started with the first King. That was why it has been known as Bal Gyal Lo.

The 14th Dalai Lama (1998: p. 233) frames the importance of consulting the Nechung Oracle for Losar:

For hundreds of years now, it has been traditional for the Dalai Lama, and the Government, to consult Nechung during the New Year festivals.[9]

Tenzin Wangyal (2002: p.xvii) frames his experience of Tibetan cultural practice of Losar in relation to elemental celebrations and offerings to Nāga (Tibetan: Klu):[10]

During Losar, the Tibetan celebration of the new year, we did not drink champagne to celebrate. Instead, we went to the local spring to perform a ritual of gratitude. We made offerings to the nagas, the water spirits who activated the water element in the area. We made smoke offerings to the local spirits associated with the natural world around us. Beliefs and behaviors like ours evolved long ago and are often seen as primitive in the West. But they are not only projections of human fears onto the natural world, as some anthropologists and historians suggest. Our way of relating to the elements originated in the direct experiences by our sages and common people of the sacred nature of the external and internal elements. We call these elements earth, water, fire, air, and space.[11]


The Gumpa dance being performed in Lachung during the Buddhist festival of Losar

The Tibetan calendar is made up of twelve lunar months and Losar begins on the first day of the first month. In the monasteries, the celebrations for the Losar begin on the twenty-ninth day of the twelfth month. That is the day before the Tibetan New Year's Eve. On that day the monasteries do a protector deities' puja (a special kind of ritual) and begin preparations for the Losar celebrations. The custom that day is to make special noodle called guthuk. It is made of nine different ingredients including dried cheese and various grains. Also, dough balls are given out with various ingredients hidden in them such as chilies, salt, wool, rice and coal. The ingredients one finds hidden in one's dough ball are supposed to be a lighthearted comment on one's character. If a person finds chilies in their dough, it means they are talkative. If white-colored ingredients like salt, wool or rice are inside the dough it is considered a good sign. If a person finds coal in the dough it means you have a "black heart".

The last day of the year is a time to clean and prepare for the approaching New Year.[12] In the monasteries it is a day of preparations. The finest decorations are put up and elaborate offerings are made called "Lama Losar". In the early dawn of this day, the monks of Namgyal Monastery offer a sacrificial cake (Tibetan: tor ma)[13] on top of the main temple (Potala in Tibet) to the supreme hierarchy of Dharma protectors, the glorious goddess Palden Lhamo. Led by the Dalai Lama, the abbots of three great monasteries, lamas, reincarnated monks or tulku, government officials and dignitaries join the ceremony and offer their contemplative prayers, while the monks of Namgyal Monastery recite the invocation of Palden Lhamo. After the completion of this ceremony, all assemble in the hall called Excellence of Samsara and Nirvana for a formal greeting ceremony. Seated on his or her respective cushions, everyone exchanges the traditional greeting, "Tashi Delek".

In order to wish the Dalai Lama good luck for the coming year, consecrated sacred pills (Tibetan: ril bu) made out of roasted barley dough are offered to him by the representatives of the three great monasteries, the two Tantric Colleges, etc. Then entertainers (garma) perform a dance of good wishes. And two senior monks stage a debate on Buddhist philosophy, and conclude their debate with an auspicious recitation composed especially for the event, in which the whole spectrum of Buddhist teaching is first briefly reviewed. A request is made to the Dalai Lama and to all holders of the doctrine to remain for a long time amongst beings in Samsara (Sanskrit) in order to serve them through their enlightened activities. The official ceremony of the day then concludes with a ceremonial farewell to the His Holiness, who then retires to his palace.

The second day of Losar is known as King's Losar (gyal-po lo-sar) because officially the day is reserved for a secular gathering in the hall of Excellence of Samsara and Nirvana. His Holiness and his government exchange greetings with both monastic and lay dignitaries, such as representatives of India, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia and other foreign visitors.

Then from the third day onwards, the people and monks begin to celebrate and enjoy the festive season. In many parts of Tibet, Losar is celebrated for fifteen days or more. In India it is celebrated for three days. In other countries celebrations may be as little as one day.

The Losar is also celebrated in Nepal and India as well, where there is a strong concentration of the Buddhist population in the northern region of Nepal and Indian states like Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal and Ladakh in Kashmir.[14] The Monpa tribe of Tawang and the Memba of the Mechukha valley of Arunachal celebrate Losar. Yet the Memba of Mechukha celebrate Losar one month earlier than the other Losar-celebrating peoples.

Phurbu Thinley states that:

It is time again for Tibetans around the world to celebrate their Losar; this time- the Year of the Earth Mouse 2135.

Tibetans and a section of Buddhists around the world will celebrate Losar on Thursday, February 7, 2008. The celebration normally lasts for three days, and it all means time for greetings, togetherness and abundant festivities, and time for prayers as well.[15]


The Tibetan calendar is a lunisolar calendar. Losar is celebrated on the first through third days of the first lunar month.

Gregorian Year Year of Rabjung 60-year Cycle Tibetan Year Losar Date*** Gender, Element, and Animal
2008 rab byung 17 lo 22 2135 February 7 Male Earth Mouse/Rat**
2009 rab byung 17 lo 23 2136 February 25 Female Earth Ox[16]
2010 rab byung 17 lo 24 2137 February 14 Male Iron Tiger[17]
2011 rab byung 17 lo 25 2138 March 5 Female Iron Hare/Rabbit**[18]
2012 rab byung 17 lo 26 2139 February 22 Male Water Dragon
2013 rab byung 17 lo 27 2140 February 11 Female Water Snake
2014 rab byung 17 lo 28 2141 March 2 Male Wood Horse
2015 rab byung 17 lo 29 2142 February 18/19 Female Wood Sheep/Goat**
2016 rab byung 17 lo 30 2143 February 9 [19] Male Fire Monkey
2017 rab byung 17 lo 31 2144 February 27 Female Fire Bird/Rooster**
2018 rab byung 17 lo 32 2145 February 16 Male Earth Dog
2019 rab byung 17 lo 33 2146 February 5 Female Earth Pig/Boar**
2020 rab byung 17 lo 34 2147 February 24 Male Iron Mouse/Rat**
* Note: Rabjung (Wylie: rab byung) is the name of the 60-year cycle of the Tibetan calendar that started in 1027 CE, and is currently in its 17th cycle.
** Note: These year names have more than one translation into English with differerent terms used by different groups.
*** Note: Losar is celebrated by some international communities at more or less the same time it is celebrated in Asia. For example, for a year when Losar starts on February 1 in Asia time zones, it may be celebrated by some in United States time zones on January 31. Losar celebrations are normally for three days.


  1. ^ In the Tibetan and Gurung zodiac, the bird is the seventh and tenth zodiac, respectively, and thus will be considered the "Year of the Bird". The Gurungs celebrated the "Year of the Bird" in December 2016.[1] The Tamang will celebrate Sonam Losar - The Year of the Rooster on January 29, 2017.[2]
  2. ^ In the Tibetan zodiac, the boar is the ninth zodiac and thus will be considered the "Year of the Boar". In the Gurung zodiac, the deer is the twelfth zodiac and thus will be considered the "Year of the Deer". The Gurungs will celebrate the "Year of the Deer" in December 2018.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tibetan Astrology – Table of Year-Animal-Element | Albagnano Healing Meditation Centre". Ahmc.ngalso.net. 2014-01-28. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  2. ^ "Holidays and observances in Nepal in 2017". Timeanddate.com. 2016-12-31. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  3. ^ "Tamu (Gurung) Losar Festival | Culture | ECSNEPAL - The Nepali Way". Ecs.com.np. 2010-07-11. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  4. ^ "Religions - Buddhism: Losar". BBC. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  5. ^ Sah, Dipak. "Losar Festival Nepal : Tamu, Sherpa, Tibetan, Gyalpo Lhosar". Imnepal.com. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  6. ^ Ligeti, Louis (1984). Tibetan and Buddhist Studies: Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Alexander Csoma De Koros, Volume 2. University of California Press. p. 344. ISBN 9789630535731. 
  7. ^ Hastings, James (2003). Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Part 10. Kessinger Publishing. p. 892. ISBN 9780766136823. 
  8. ^ "Sonam Losar (Tamang New Year) in Nepal". Timeanddate.com. 2016-12-31. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  9. ^ Gyatso, Tenzin (1988). Freedom in Exile: the Autobiography of the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Fully revised and updated. Lancaster Place, London, UK: Abacus Books (A Division of Little, Brown and Company UK). ISBN 0-349-11111-1
  10. ^ "klu - Rangjung Yeshe Wiki - Dharma Dictionnary". Rywiki.tsadra.org. 2006-10-08. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  11. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (2002). Healing with Form, Energy, and Light. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-176-6
  12. ^ About Buddhist Holy Days, Hayagriva.org.au
  13. ^ "tor ma - Rangjung Yeshe Wiki - Dharma Dictionnary". Rywiki.tsadra.org. 2005-12-28. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  14. ^ "Galdan Namchot and Losar - Leh Ladakh Holidays,Leh Ladakh Holiday". Leh-ladakh.com. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  15. ^ Venerable Salden, Namgyal Monastery (2000). The Story of Tibetan New Year, Buddhapia.com accessed: Losar, 2008
  16. ^ "Kālacakra Calendar". Kalacakra.org. 2013-07-27. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  17. ^ [1][dead link]
  18. ^ "Losar, Nouvel An tibétain en 2011 : année 2138 du Lièvre de Fer". Tibet-info.net. Retrieved 2017-01-21. 
  19. ^ "Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute". Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute. Retrieved January 27, 2016.