Festivals of Tibet

Tibetan New Year (February)

Tibetan New year, also known as Losar, is the most important festival in the Tibetan calendar which is celebrated in all Tibetan areas. It is mainly celebrated over a period of 3 days in late January or February, according to the Tibetan calendar. Tibetan New Year is celebrated especially by dancing, music, and a general spirit of merrymaking. However, during Tibetan New Year period, Tibet is not open to foreign travelers.

The Monlam Prayer Festival (March)

The Monlam prayer festival is actually almost a two week event. The festival starts on the fourth day of the Tibetan calender and ends of the fifteenth day that is the day called the Butter Lamp Festival (Choe-nga Choepa) that is the greatest and last day of the Monlam Festival and falls on March. Monks perform traditional Tibetan Buddhist dances during Monlam Prayer Festival, and cakes are made with butter sculptures.

The Butter Lamp Festival (March)

This festival involves lighting butter lamps (lamps made of butter) and displaying butter sculptures in order to celebrate Shakyamuni Buddha’s great debating victory over his opponents about 2,500 years ago. He bested them in a great debate. The festival falls in the first month of the Tibetan calendar on the 15th day, and it is traditionally considered to be a part of the Monlam Prayer Festival week before it. The Tibetan Butter Lamp Festival is the last and greatest day of the Monlam Festival that commemorates Buddha’s miracles. The festival falls on March of Gregorian calendar.

The Thangka Unveiling at Tashilupo (March)

This festival is celebrated at the Tashilupo Monastery and falls on the month of March of Gregorian calendar. The big Thangka with a Buddha image on it is unfolded, and the people all gather in front of the Thangka to pray.

Zamling Chisang (July)

This festival is celebrated in Lhasa in the month of July of Gregorian calendar. Tibetans gather together to burn incense to worship Buddha.

Sag Dawa (June)

The festival is celebrated to honor the life of Buddha and is celebrated in Lhasa in the month of June. Along with remembering Buddha and his activities, the main point of the festival is to pray. It is said by many that the goal of the festival season is to pray for the long life of all the holy gurus of all traditions, for the survival and spreading of Buddha’s teachings in the minds of all sentient beings, and for world peace.

The Gyantse Horse Race Festival (July)

This festival is celebrated in Gyantse a rugged beautiful high-altitude ancient town about 245 kilometers southwest of Lhasa where there are annual athletic contests on the fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar. These contests involve horse racing and archery contests, as well as wrestling, Tibetan Opera, music and dancing, track and field, and ball games. Along with this, there is a swap meet and an open market to buy authentic Tibetan crafts goods and a picnic where you can try the Tibetan food.

Choekar Duechen / Tukbe Tseshi (July)

This festival is celebrated in Lhasa in the month of July where Tibetans wear festival clothes to celebrate this festival and walk around a mountain and lake clockwise.

Samye Dolde (August)

This festival is celebrated at the Samye Monastery in the month of August. Monks wear festival clothes and masks, and dance to drive away bad things and devils.

The Nagqu Horse Race Festival (August)

The Nagqu Horse Racing Festival is the grandest annual event in western China’s Nagqu Prefecture, the largest prefecture in Tibet and indeed, the grandest annual event in all of northern Tibet celebrated in the month of August. In advance of the festival, Tibetan herdsmen and their families begin to trickle into the seat of the prefecture – also called Nagqu – from various parts of Tibet. They arrive on horseback still, bringing with them the tents and the furnishings which will provide them a ‘home away from home’ for the duration of the festival.

Shoton Festival (August)

The Shoton Festival is one of the most popular traditional festivals in Tibet. It celebrates eating yogurt, the Tibetan monks who end their season of meditation, the watching of Tibetan dramatic operas, and Tibetan Buddhism. It is held annually in the month of August, or late in the sixth month or early in the seventh month of the Tibetan calendar. A big thangka with an image of Buddha on it is unveiled at Drepung Monastery. People enjoy yoghourt together on this day.

Lhabab Duechen (November)

The Lhabab Duechen Festival is a Tibetan Buddhist festival that commemorates Buddha returning to earth after going to the 33 Heaven at the age of 41. The festival is in the ninth month of the Tibetan calendar on the 22nd day and in the month of November according to Gregorian calendar. Buddha is said to return to earth on this day. Tibetans burn incenses in monasteries and pray.