What Is The Most Significant Tibetan Festivals

It’s known that Tibetan people believe in Buddhism and Buddhism has integrated with their social life.

Obviously, Tibetan festivals have religious characters as well. Most Tibetan festivals are celebrated for some significant events in Buddhism history or legends, such as the birth of Buddha, the enlightenment of some eminent monks, and so on. Even if there is no religious reason for some festivals, for example, the Tibetan Losar new year, Tibetan people will also hold a ceremony for gods worshiping. So joining in Tibetan festivals is a great way for foreign travelers to experience Tibetan culture more deeply. Besides Losar Festival, Butter Lantern Festival, Saga Dawa Festival, and Shoton Festival… are all significant feasts for Tibetans. Here we will introduce you to the most important Tibetan Festivals, therefore you can make your Tibet tour coincide with the festival of your choice.

Tibetan Festivals are based on the Tibetan calendar, which varies every year in the solar calendar. Their exact solar date is calculated each year a few months prior by astrologers from Mentse Khang, aka - Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute, which is in charge of researching Tibetan medicine and calculating the Tibetan calendar.

Losar Festival – Tibetan New Year

Date: March 3rd. 2022

Losar Festival could count as the most important festival for the Tibetan people. Starting from December 29th of the Tibetan Calendar, Losar Festival is a moment for the family to enjoy a happy time and greet the coming year. There are usually three days celebrating Losar. Tibetan people will clean the house thoroughly on the first day, which implies kicking out the bad luck. Then, the housewife will prepare special food “Gutu” and the family will have it to farewell the past and welcome the future.  On the second day, the monasteries will hold traditional ceremonies to expel the demons which exist everywhere. Tibetan people will go to monasteries and put an offering to the Buddhist deities. On the third day, Tibetan people will gather together, singing, and dancing, while eating fancy dinners. If you happen to be here during this time, the hospitable Tibetan people will invite you to their lovely home, where you can be affected by joy and happiness easily.

Saga Dawa Festival

Date: May 31st. 2022

The 15th day of every fourth month in the Tibetan calendar is an important day as it was the birthday of Sakyamuni, as well as the time of his enlightenment and entry into nirvana. There are two places for honoring the greatest Buddha. One is Lhasa; another one is Mt. Kailash. Thousands of Buddhist devotees come to Tibet to do a kora by following the Lhasa Lingkhor circuit or Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar route. 

Shoton Festival

Date: August 27th. 2022

As one of the most attractive Tibetan festivals, Shoton Festival has a large scale in Lhasa while a smaller one is in Shigatse Prefecture. It is held on the first day of every 7th. month according to the Tibetan calendar and usually lasts for 4-5 days. “Sho” means yogurt, and “Ton” means banquet in the Tibetan language. That’s why it was called “Yogurt Festival as well. Besides of Shoton Festival, this feast has three names, Yogurt Festival, Tibetan Opera Festival, and Buddha Exhibition Festival. It originated from Drepung Monastery in the 11th. Century. According to the scripture of Tibetan Buddhism, the monks were not allowed to go out in summer in case of killing small creatures. Beginning from the fourth month in the Tibetan calendar, they had to stay in the monasteries until the end of the sixth month. The laypeople would offer them yogurt for comforting their hard practice after they come out. To the present day, the opening of the Shoton Festival is the huge Thangka displayed at the back hill of Drepung Monastery. Then, there will be a traditional Tibetan opera in Norbulingka Park, where you can enjoy the fancy show with Tibetan people while eating the tasty Tibetan yogurt.

Butter Lamp Festival (Galdan namchot​​​​​​ /Ganden Nga-Choe)

Date: December 18th. 2022

This is a festival to honor the founder of Gelugpa Tibetan Buddhism, Tsongkapa, who was the Buddhist reformer and Gelug school's founder. It is held on the 25th. October is in the Tibetan calendar and has the Tibetan name “Gaden Ngachen Chenmo Festival”. It could say Ganden Monastery Lantern Festival is the last Tibetan festival. On that day, the Lamas will light up the butter lamps at the altars inside and outside of all the Gelugpa monasteries while the lay people who believe in Gelugpa will light lamps in the praying room of their house. The scene is absolutely beautiful, especially at the night. The number of butter lamps is usually singular because singular means auspicious in the Tibetan concept.


Catherine zhang

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