Losar is the most important traditional festival celebrated by all Tibetans to commemorate the advent of New Year in the Tibetan Calendar. It usually falls on a different day from the Spring Festival each year. Losar is an ethnic festival combined with celebrations and prayers. The celebrations of Losar last about half a month, brimming with atmospheric Buddhism.
Losar has been observed for over 1000 years. Before Buddhism came to Tibet, Tibetans would hold a grand spiritual ceremony to please the local spirits and deities. Step by step, most Tibetans have become followers of Tibetan Buddhism, and Losar has evolved into an annual Buddhism festival especially featuring dancing, chanting, religious practice and other entertainment activities.
Every household will prepare Qie Ma, an assortment of glutinous rice cakes and stir-fried kernel placed in colorful wooden boxes. In the middle, colorful flowers and highland barley spikes are stuck as decorations. People will also soak highland barley seeds in a bowl of water so that it will grow small shoots during the New Year. Then it will be placed in front of the altar as an offering as part of prayers for a plentiful harvest.
When the New Year approaches, in addition to cooking barley wine, Tibetan women will also make Ka Sai, a kind of pastry stir fried with butter. There are popularly crafted into shapes such as ears, butterflies, slices, squares, and circles. The pastry is then dyed using natural colors and sprayed with granulated sugar. Ka Sai is not only a decoration for the New Year, but also snacks for guests.
Homes are painted, new clothes are stitched, debts and quarrels are resolved, intoxicants are drunk in the run-up to New Year’s Day. Homes are decorated with flour paintings of the sun and moon, and small lamps are illuminated in the houses at night.
The first few days of festivities are exclusively family affairs. Tibetan people usually visit their friends and relatives to give them best wishes. In the evening, everyone gathers together to chant, dance, and burn torches which they pass through the crowds to cast away evil spirits and pray for blessings. The city’s or village’s streets are generally very quite on these days.
Later, the festivities roll out onto the streets. In the following days, Tibetans go to the local monasteries, where they make offerings and celebrate the festival with Lamas.
Traditional ways of celebrating Losar have changed somewhat through time. For example, firework is a relatively recent addition to Losar, but have grown in popularity until today they are possibly Losar’s main attraction. These days, on the first day of Losar, good tidings ring out all across the country by means of the electronic media, and Losar celebrations are broadcast on television throughout the country