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Tibet Festivals

Festivals in Tibet
There are some major Tibetan festivals whose dates are fixed according to Lunar calendar. It would be a great experience to travel to Tibet during some of these festivals. Check with us for the actual dates before planning your trip.

Tibetan New Year (February or March)
It is the greatest festival in Tibet. In ancient times when the peach tree was in blossom, it was considered as the starting of a new year. Since the systematization of the Tibetan calendar in 1027 AD., the first day of the first month became fixed as the New Year. On the New Year\'s day the whole families infuse barley seeds in basins. On the New Year Eve, every family present all kinds of foods in front of Buddha images and keep busy preparing plentiful food for the holiday. On the first day of the Tibetan New Year (first day of lunar calendar), the first thing Tibetans must do is to sent one family member to take a barrel of water to home from the river, the first barrel of water in the new year is called auspicious water. From the second day, relatives and friends begin to visit each other and celebrate the New Year, which last for 3 to 5 days. During the festival, people play Guozhang or Guoxie dance at the squares or open grasslands with the accompaniment of guitars, cymbals, gongs and other musical instruments. Hand in hand, arm in arm, Tibetans dance in a circle while singing following the rhythm by stamping their feet. Children, on the other hand, will fire firecrackers. A happy, harmony and auspicious festival atmosphere pervade the whole area. The auspicious greeting \"Tashi Delek\" is exchanged among the Tibetan communities.

Ox festival
It derives from Tibetans\' awareness of the importance of ox in agriculture. During their daily labor, they gradually produced strong feeling to ox, and consequently, numerous phenomena of ox culture came into being. Ox was regarded as god and became the best sacrifice for divinities. Then, the Ox Festival finally emerged. It starts from the 15th day of the 8th month in Tibetan year and usually lasts more than 10 days or even one month sometimes, with generally more than 1,000 people. During this process, people will ask \"Heiba\"(wizard) to recite scriptures, play yak horn and kill tens of yaks or over 100 sheep, drinking freely and talking noisily. Because of the high expenses, this large-sized fair was held only once in almost one century. Moreover, members who take part in Ox Festival share the same blood relationship. So, it is placed among the cultural festivals of ancestors worship.

Great Prayer Festival
It falls on the fourth up to the eleventh day of the first Tibetan month. It is the greatest religious festival in Tibet. Monks of Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery and Ganden Monastery assemble in Jokhang Monastery on this occasion. It dates back to 1049 when Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelu sect, held a praying ceremony in Lhasa. Examinations taking form of Sutra debates for the Geshe degree, the highest degree in Buddhist theology, were also held. Pilgrims from other places in Tibet crowded to listen to the sermons while others give religious donations. After that, it is continuously enlarged and enriched, becoming a fixed and popular religious festival and lasting until today, with a larger size than is was set up.

Butter Oil Lantern Festival (February or March)

Its\' held on the 15th of the first lunar month. In the daytime, people visit to monasteries to worship Buddhas and pray. At night, a lamp festival is held on the Barkhor Street, where there are lots of shelves filled with colorful and various images such as gods, figures, birds, animals, flowers and trees. Meanwhile, you can also enjoy the puppet show. Thousands of lamps just like the shining stars falling from the sky, takes on a splendid look. Huge yak-butter sculptures are placed around Lhasa\'s Barkhor circuit.

Saga Dawa Festival (May or June)
The 15th day of the fourth month in the Tibetan calendar is a day when Sakyamuni was born, achieved nirvana and passed away. It is also a traditional festival for Tibetan people. April in Tibetan calendar is Buddha Month, so it is called \"Saka Dawa\" in Tibetan. On this day, in accordance with their conventions, Tibetans dress themselves in their holiday best and assemble at the Dragon King Pool behind the magnificent Potala Palace to celebrate this grand religious festival. After long period of development, it gradually evolves into a mass festival for Tibetans to visit parks in spring and summer and pray for a good harvest in agriculture and animal husbandry. During this festival, some people set up colorful tents; some prepare barley wine and butter tea, families resting beside the pool with great joy. Then young Tibetans dance in a circle while singing following the rhythm by stamping their feet.

Horse Race & Archery (June & July)
Horse Racing Fair is a unique festival in grazing area of Tibet. It is usually held between June and July in Tibetan calendar, when the pasture is lush and horses and cows are stout and strong. The horse racing is seen every year, but a large one is held every two or three years. It lasts several days, with the longest ones over ten days. The most famous ones of them are the Kyagqen Horse Racing Art Festival of Nagqu and Darma.

Festival of Gyangze
As the horse racing starts, herdsmen will come from a long way by horse or yak, wearing colorful clothes for festivals, and all kinds of jewels and ornaments. The horse racing field will instantly be surrounded by tents. The event includes horse racing and horsemanship. The horse racing intends to test the controlling ability of the horseman and the viability, exploding force and stability of the horse. There are long-distance and short-distance horse racing, covering thousands or hundreds of meters. The horsemanship match has such contents as shooting arrows, target practice, chopping, picking up Hada and offering highland barley wine on the horse. The atmosphere is comfortable and the event is more a performance than competition. There are no detailed rules for the match. In addition, such programmes as two-man tug-of-war and carrying huge stones are also performed. As night falls, people make a campfire and sing and dance around it.The horse racing festival has become a grand ceremony to boost local economy and accelerate economic development.

Bathing Festival (September)
It is believed when the sacred planet Venus appears in the sky, the water in the river becomes purest and cures diseases. During its appearance for one week, usually the end of the seventh and beginning of the eighth lunar months, all the people in Tibet go into the river to wash away the sins of the previous year. Being a conventional festival in Tibet, it has a long history of seven or eight hundred years at least.

Shoton Festival (August)

It is one of the major festivals in Tibet, also known as the Tibetan Opera Festival. The founder of the Gelugpa (Yellow Sect of Buddhism), Tsongkhapa set the rule that Buddhists can cultivate themselves only indoor in summer, to avoid killing other creatures carelessly. Because creatures are most active in summer. This rule must be carried out till the seventh lunar month. Then Buddhists go outdoor, accept Yoghurt served by local people, and have fun. Since the middle of 17th century, the Fifth Dalai Lama added opera performance to this festival. Famous Tibetan opera troupes perform in Norbulingka (Dalai Lama\'s summer palace). During the festival, Tibetans, no matter male or female, old or young, visit Norbulingka Summer Palace carrying colorful bags on back and barley wine barrels in hand. Some will set up tents, put carpet on the ground, and lay out barley wine, dishes and other holiday foods. Horseracing is a favorite activity for Tibetans. It not only provides a good place to assemble and exchange experience in agriculture and animal husbandry in spare time, but also shows the spirit of Tibetans. Consequently, horse racing has become an indispensable activity in almost all the Tibetan festivals that are handed down and spread among the people.

Harvest Festival (September)
Harvest Festival or Ongkor in Tibetan is mainly celebrated in rural areas to pray for a good harvest. On this day, farmers put on their best clothes, carry harvest pagodas made from the ears of highland barley and wheat and circle around their fields beating drums, chanting holy songs and dancing. Then they will gather, drinking Chang and yak butter tea. In some areas, there are other activities as well, such as horse races, archery competitions and performances of Tibetan Opera. After the Harvest Festival, farmers will be busy harvesting their crops.

Kungbu Traditional Festival (November or December)
Long time ago,when Tibet was in danger of large scale invasion, the Kongpo people sent out an army to defend their homeland.It was in September and the soldiers worried that they might miss the New Year, highland barley wine and other good things. So people had the Tibetan New Year on 1st October ahead of time. To memorize those brave soldiers Kongpo people present three sacrifices an stay up at night from then on. And now it has Becoe the Kongpo Festibal for entertainment like Kongpo dancing, horse race, archery and shooting.
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