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Tibetan festivals

Pilgrims at Jokhang, Lhasa during Monlam
Dancing at Sho Dun Festival, Norbulingka, 1993

In Tibet, the Tibetan calendar lags approximately four to six weeks behind the solar calendar. For example the Tibetan First Month usually falls in February, the Fifth Month usually falls in June or early July and the Eight Month usually falls in in September.

Month Date Festival Notes
1st Month 1st-7th New Year Festival Losar A week long drama and carnivals, horse races and archery
1st Month 4th-25th Monlam Prayer Festival The Great Prayer Festival, a tradition begun by Tsong Khapa. Many pilgrims gather at Jokhang in Lhasa
1st Month 15th Lantern Festival Commemorates Buddha's miracle at Sravasti. Fires are lit on roofs, and lamps in windows
2nd Month 28th-29th - Festival to drive out evil spirits and expel the scapegoat. Lamas encircle Lhasa with trumpets
4th Month 7th Pilgrim Festival Important month for pilgrims. -the birth of Buddha Sakyamuni
4th Month 15th Saka dawa Celebrates the birth and Enlightenment of Sakyamuni and his entry to Nirvana. An outdoor opera is held and captured animals released. Worshippers flock to the Jokhang in Lhasa to pray.
5th Month 14th-16th Hanging of the Thangka A giant thangka is hung at Tashilhunpo in Shigatse
5th Month 15th Incense Festival On this day ghosts are said to prowl. Tibetans dress up and party to drive away the spirits.
5th Month 15th-24th Sho Dun Festival Literally, the "Yoghurt Festival." Worship of the Buddha. Picnics and operas are held in parks particularly under the trees at Norbulingka. There are often bonfires at night.
6th Month 4th Buddha's sermon A feast is held to commemorate Buddha's first sermon. Pilgrims climb holy mountains such as Chokbori
6th month 6th Cham-ngyon-wa, or "Old Dance" Celebrated at the Cho-ne Monastery, representing the souls of the departed.
7th month beginning Washing Festival Lasts about a week. People go to the river to wash themselves and their clothes. Said to cure any sickness.
7th Month end Ongkar Festival Literally 'Looking around the fields'. Ensures a good harvest. Horse-racing, archery contests and opera
7th/8th Month All Golden Star Festival The Golden Star festival is held to wash away passion, greed and jealousy and to abandon ego. Ritual bathing in rivers takes place and picnics are held
8th Month 1st-10th Dajyur Festival The Dayjur is held in Gyantse and Damxung -horse racing and light hearted sports competitions and games takes places
8th Month 1st-7th Harvest Festival The festival is held with prayers, dancing, singing and drinking
9th Month 22nd - Buddha's descent from heaven after preaching to his mother is commemorated. All monasteries are opened and pilgrims gather
10th Month 25th Tsong Khapa memorial Memorial festival of Tsong Khapa's death - fires are lit on the roofs of the monasteries and lamps are lit
12th Month 1st-7th New Year Festival New Year Festival in Shigatse
12th Month 5th-6th Meeting of the Eight Guardians The Meeting of the Eight Guardians and demons where Tibetans stay indoors to avoid evil outside
12th Month 29th Banishing Evil Spirits A "Devil Dance" is held to drive out all evil from the Old Year to prepare for New Year.


The Tibetan calendar is a lunisolar calendar. Losar is celebrated on the first three days of the first lunar month.

Gregorian year Tibetan year Losar* element and animal
2000 2126 February 5 - February 7 male iron dragon
2001 2127 January 24 - January 26 female iron snake (or metal serpent)
2002 2128 February 12 - February 14 male water horse
2003 2129 February 1 - February 3 female water sheep (or goat)
2004 2130 January 22 - January 24 male wood monkey
2005 2131 February 9 - February 11* female wood bird (or rooster)
2006 2132 January 30 - February 1 male fire dog
2007 2133 February 18 - February 20 female fire pig
2008 2134 February 7 - February 9 male earth rat (some Gelukpa cite Tibetan Year 2135 [five], starting 2008-02-07 at 03:44 GMT, also an annular solar eclipse)
2009 2135 January 25 - January 27 female earth ox

See also

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