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Tibet Festivals

Tibet, inhabited by a group of devout Tibetan Buddhism believers, is a mysterious holy plateau appeal to many travelers where you can easily find breathtaking highland sceneries as well as the unique ethnic group with their distinctive culture. Tibetan people celebrate a number of traditional festivals, during the time pilgrims often flock to Tibet where takes on strong party atmosphere with colorful activities and interesting things. If it is possible, try to plan your Tibet tours with one of these festivals, and it will be one of your most memorable experiences in your life.

 

Below is a table list of the major traditional Tibetan festivals for your reference, and the ones in bold and blue are the most important known to people. Just keep in mind that the dates of all listed festivals are Tibetan calendar, which lags approximately four to six weeks behind solar calendar, for instance, the Tibetan January often falls in solar February, while the Tibetan May should be solar June or early July.

 

Date (Tibetan Calendar)

Festival

Location

Activities & Practice

1st-15th, January

Tibetan New Year (Losar)

Tibet, Jokhang Monastery

Two-week-long celebrations with drama and carnivals, horse races and archery; family reunite, eat guthuk, expel evil spirits, make chema.

4th-25th, January

Monlam Prayer Festival

Jokhang Monastery

Also the Great Prayer Festival, a tradition begun by Tsong Khapa. Many pilgrims gather at Jokhang in Lhasa, chanting prayers and performing religious rituals.

15th, January

Chunga Choepa (Butter Lamp Festival)

Jokhang Monastery, Barkhor Street

Commemorates Buddha's miracle at Sravasti. A similar Lantern Festival to Han Nationality; monks and folk artists make butter sculptures in diversified patterns and color, and put them on lamp holders in Barkhor Street.

7th, April

Pilgrim Festival

 

Important month for pilgrims- the birth of Buddha Sakyamuni.

15th, April

Saka Dawa

Lhasa, Jokhang Monastery, Dragon King Pond Square

Celebrates the birth and Enlightenment of Sakyamuni and his entry to Nirvana. Worshippers flock to Jokhang in Lhasa to pray. Outdoor operas and release captured animals.

5th, May

Incense Festival

 

On this day ghosts are said to prowl. Tibetans dress up and party to drive away the spirits.

14th-16th, May

Buddha Unfolding Festival (Hanging of the Thangka)

Tashilhunpo Monastery, Shigatse

A tradition lasted for 500 years, giant Thangkas of Amitayus, Sakyamuni and Maitreya are displayed on the Thangka Wall successively in Tashilhunpo Monastery; pilgrims flock to the monastery to pay offerings and accumulate their merits.

4th, June

Choekhor Duechcen Festival

 

Monasteries and holy mountains

Also known as Paying Homage to Holy Mountain Festival, the feast is to commemorate Sakyamuni's first sermon; pilgrims go to monasteries to pay homage to the Buddha, and circumambulate around holy mountains.

1st – 7th, July

Sho Dun Festival

Lhasa, Drepung Monastery, Norbulingka, Sera Monastery

Literally Yoghurt Festiva, worship of the Buddha, picnics and Tibetan operas in the park of Norbulingka, bonfires at night.

6th-12th, July

Washing Festival

Lhasa rivers

Lasts about a week. Tibetans believe the waters of Lhasa rivers are the holiest during this period when Venus appears in the sky. They bring food and set up tents along rivers. They wash themselves and their clothes in the river and believe the holy water can cure any sickness and get rid of misfortune.

July & August

Golden Star Festival

 

To wash away sins, such as passion, greed, jealousy and to abandon ego. Ritual bathing in rivers takes place and picnics are held.

1st, August

Nakchu Horse Racing Festival

Nakchu

People dress up, flock to Nakchu to create a colorful tent city. Exciting horse racing, archery, horsemanship, weightlifting, tug-of-war, and commodity fairs. Recreational activities are Tibetan circle dance, Tibetan cards, bonfire party and opera of Gesar.

At the beginning of August

Dajyur Festival

Southern Tibet, Gyantse

Last about 10 days, contests such as horse racing, bicycle riding, and rock-carrying.

End of July or beginning of August

Ongkar (Bumper Harvest) Festival

Surrounding farmlands

Occurs 2-3 days before the harvest in the riverine areas, it is celebrated annually by Tibetan farmers who walking around farmlands to pray for harvest of crops. Activities include singing and dancing, Tibetan opera, contests of horse racing, archery, stone holding and wrestling.

22nd, September

Buddha's descent

Jokhang Monastery, Ramoche Monastery, Potala Palace

To commemorate Buddha's descent from heaven after preaching to his mother. All monasteries are opened and pilgrims gather to pray for good harvest and happiness.

25th, October

Tsong Khapa Butter Lamp Festival

 

To memorize the passing away of Tsong Khapa, a great Buddhist and religious reformer of Geluk– myriads of butter lamp are lit on roofs, religious rites in monasteries.

1st-7th, December

New Year Festival

Shigatse

New Year Festival in Shigatse.

29th, December

Banishing Evil Spirits

Tibet

"Devil Dance" to drive out all evil from the Old Year to prepare for New Year.