2018 Festival Calendar
February 16 – 22 – Tibetan New Year festival
May 29 – Saga Dawa
August 11 – 27 – Shoton Festival
Join us for Special Shoton Festival Group Tour. Details.
Losar – Tibetan New Year festival
The Tibetan New Year is celebrated in the beginning of the 1 month according to Tibetan calendar. The preparation for the New Year starts with painting a rectangle cereal container called ”Chemar“ for making contributions to Buddha. Tibetans fill up “Chemar” with butter, mixed barley cakes, baked barley seeds and ginseng nuts. ”Chemar“ is decorated on the outside with barley ears, cock-flowers, and butter made plates. When New Year’s day breaks, people hold ”Chemar“ and highland barley wine to greet each other by saying”Tashi Delek”. which means “Good wishes and happiness”. People sing and dance, visit relatives or friends for several following days; they drink together and pray for happiness in temples or monasteries. No one is allowed to do any household chores on that day.
Butter Lamp Festival
Tibetans celebrate the Butter Lamp Festival on the 15th date of the January according to Tibetan calendar Festival. Lamas from every temple and monastery and civil craftsmen make butter flowers with colored butter and hang them on the shafts in front of Jokhang Temple; when night comes, butter flowers are lighted; legendary figures, birds, and animals painted on the lamps are vivid and eye-catching. People sing and dance under the lamps till daybreak.
Buddha’s Anniversary Festival: Its common name is “The Festival of Setting Captive Animals Free”. All lamas and laymen do not eat meat and do not kill animals during the whole April month of Tibetan calendar; they pay their homage to Buddha, and chant sutras. It is believed that Sakyamuni was born, enlightened and dead in the 15th of the April month, so every 15 of the April month people gathered by the Dragon king pool rowing boats and singing songs; they picnic and dance in the garden.
During the Saga Dawa festival, monks perform a religious dance called Cham Dance. Monks wear masks representing different deities. The dance’s primary purpose is not to entertain the public, but rather to attract luck and happiness. The costumes are bright, colorful and heavily decorated making the dance an interesting and rarely seen event.
You can enjoy the Cham Dance at the Tsurphu and Dregong monasteries during the Saga Dawa festival. It is also performed in Samye monastery during the Tsechu Festival celebrated on May 15th of the Tibetan calendar.
In 2018 Saga Dawa is celebrated on May 29th. If you wish to visit Tibet during that time, please contact us to arrange the tour.
Paying Homage to the Holy Mountain Festival
The 4th of June in Tibetan calendar is a religious festival for the front Tibetan area. It is believed to be the day Sakyamuni first preached a sermon with the prayer wheel. On this day, people go to monasteries and temples to pay their homage to Buddha, to offer joss-sticks and to circumambulate holy mountains; they have picnics and enjoy themselves with singing and dancing in the fields.
The Shoton Festival
The Shoton or yogurt festival is celebrated in summer and is very popular among Tibetans. Many pilgrims visit Lhasa, the capital of Tibet during that time. City and monasteries are decorated in preparation for it.
Traditionally, monks had a prolonged retreat during the summer months and stayed within the monasteries. At the end of the retreat, Tibetans would bring them yogurt to celebrate the end of the retreat and to express gratitude to monks. Later the celebration grew bigger and opera performance in the Norbulingka park became an important part of it. Nowadays Tibetans celebrate Shoton festival for a week, spending beautiful summer days in the park watching opera and enjoying a picnic with friends and family.
The celebration begins early morning on June 30th of Tibetan calendar. People gather at the foot of Drepung Monastery, waiting for the first event of Shoton Festival. Monks unfold the giant embroidered Thangka. The image of the Buddha is displayed on the hill and can be seen from the great distance. Pilgrims walk around the Drepung monastery to reach the Thangka display, then walk around the painting to get its blessing.
After visiting Drepung, pilgrims head towards Sera monastery where another Thangka is displayed in the afternoon. Monks unroll it later in the day and it is possible to see both ceremonies in one day.
From the first day of the festival, Tibetan drama troupes perform operas in Potala Palace and Norbulingka. Tibetans dress up in traditional clothes and visit Norbulingka, the summer residence of the Dalai Lama to watch the spectacular performance. People settle for a picnic in the park and spend the day watching the opera and visiting palaces and temples in the park.
Visiting Tibet during Shoton festival is an exciting opportunity to participate in one of the most important events in the life of Tibetans. You are guaranteed to have a very close interaction with people around you. Many Tibetans travel from remote areas to visit the capital during that time. Pilgrims wear their best traditional dress, some are very different in style and decorations than what you can usually see in Lhasa and Central Tibet.
The Bathing Festival
The Festival is held in July, the month of Tibetan calendar, it lasts for 7 days from 6 to 12. It is exactly the end of summer and the beginning of autumn, wind moderates and the sunshine on the Plateau. Tibetan people, old and young, man and woman, from towns or countryside or pastoral areas, go to riversides to take a holy bath. It is said to be able to heal diseases and keep fit.
It is a holiday of Tibetan, looking forward to a harvest. It is usually celebrated when crops are ripe and it will last three to five days. People dress uphold colorful flags with good wishes, carry a ”harvest tower“ built with barley stalks and ears. They sing and dance, beat drums and walk around the fields. On this day, people are also enjoying horse-racing etc… Then they start the intense autumn harvest.
The Fairy Maiden Festival
Every 15th day of the October month in Tibetan calendar is the Maiden Festival. Lots of religious activities are held. Tibetan women regard it their own holiday, so they are more active and energetically than men.