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From: China Tibet Online 2014-03-03 11:42:00
by: Doreen Wang
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Varied Tibetan customs in Losar

At the end of every year, Tsangla, a resident settled in Shigatse now, usually goes back to Shigatse to celebrate the Tibetan New Year, and then she goes to Lhasa to celebrate for another time. Tsangla said people could celebrate Tibetan New Year for four times each year, however, among which the celebration around Lhasa is the grandest one.

Tibetan New Year is called "Losar" in Tibetan. Every year, people in Nyingchi Prefecture of southern Tibet celebrate the Tibetan New Year on Oct.1 of Tibetan calendar, the earliest celebration in Tibet, while people in Burang County of Ngari Prefecture celebrate "Losar" on Nov. 1st of Tibetan calendar, followed by Shigatse celebrations which fall on Dec.1.The latest celebration, which also has the biggest influence, comes in Lhasa celebrated on the first day of Tibetan New Year.

Tsedan Tashi, a scholar from Tibetan University said that Tibetan New Year shows multivariate timelines and is celebrated with unique local customs due to its different farming season attributed by Tibet's vast area of land and unique ecological condition, religious atmosphere and natural environment.
Eating gutu, a traditional snack similar to dumpling, is a custom to celebrate Tibetan New Year around Tibet. Gutu is sometimes filled with goods of "surprises" including charcoal, wool or salt. Someone who gets a gutu filled with wool is described as being "good-natured", while salt means lazy. The food goes with highland barley liquor.

Dava, a Lhasa resident, said "now, the mysterious meaning of eating a gutu has gradually gone, however, no matter what kind of gutu people eat, it will bring happiness to the family."

Exorcising ghosts is an important ritual to pray for happiness in Tibetan New Year, but, the rite varies in different areas. In Lhasa, people throw the Tsampa rubbed in the body and leftover gutu into the "bowl" made by a worn box, then hold a torch and wave it at every corner of the house, yelling "Out, out goes the evil." At the end of the ritual, people walk outside and throw the "bowl" and burnt torch out onto the road.

In Nyingchi, people exorcising ghosts hold a torch and run into each room, yelling:"ghosts, let's wait and see!" And then hold out the prepared black and white stones throwing into the corner. After the ritual, people will feed dog with prepared Tsampa and beef and mutton, whispering a prayer in their mouth. People will divine the fortune in the coming year by whether the dog eat or not and what it has eaten.

Usually, people will bring chemar and highland barely wine pot to pay a New Year visit to their friends or relatives' home on the first day of the Tibetan New Year. On the third day, relatives and friends will gather together on the roof to change the prayer flags for praying peace.

Lin Jifu, a scholar in Tibetology, said that the Tibetan New Year in Lhasa is called "Gyalpo Losar" in Tibetan, means the New Year for a king, embodying the key political and economic position that Lhasa has played in Tibet; while it is called "Sonam Losar" in Shigatse ,means the new Year in agricultural areas, highlighting the status of Shigatse as the granary of Tibet. 

In the Potala Palace, where "prayer flags" have been changed into new ones and filled with traditional New Year flavors, people are taking photos in front of the "new year flowers" statue.

Keisang Guimet, a middle-aged worker said that the Tibetan New Year in Lhasa is attracting people around China with its innovations, the Tibetan New Year Festival Gala, which welcomes its 30-year-anniversary, can prove that besides Tibetan couplets and Tibetan WeChat, a twitter-like communicating tool.

"From the black and white TV sets to computers and LCD televisions, the carrier of Tibetan festival gala is changing and its contents also varies, expanding the influence of the Tibetan New Year," said Keisang Guimet. He added that he is looking forward to watching the Tibetan New Year Festival Gala scheduled on the evening of March 1 this year.

[editor : ]
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