Some unique and traditional festivals of Tibet

While planning your hard earned holiday trip to Tibet, we suggest you to include a festival in your tour and if you include a festival in your itinerary you will enjoy your tour more than you would expect.  Join our adventures tours during the festival and enjoy the numerous highly colorful Tibet Traditional festivals of the region.

Different Tibetan Traditional Festivals:

Tibetan New Year
Tibetan New Year, locally, it is known as LOSAR and is the most important holiday in Tibet. Losar is a 15-day festival, with the first 3 days filled with family, friends, and traditions that date back hundreds of years.  During this time Tibetans will cook special food, drink Tibetan local barley wine, and visit Buddhist monasteries for prayers and New Year rituals. Losar coincides with the lunar calendar and is celebrated in the first lunar month of the year.

Monlam, the Great Prayer Festival

Monlam Prayer Festival, the Great Prayer Festival in Tibet is from the 4th to the 11th day in the first month in Tibetan calendar. The event was established in 1049 by Tsong Khapa who is the founder of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama's order. Monlam Prayer Festival is the grandest Tibetan religious festival. There are normally religious dances. During this festival, thousands of monks gather for chanting in Jokhang Temple.

Tibet Butter Lamp Festival
The Butter Lamp Festival, locally it is called Chunga Choepa in Tibetan. This festival falls on the 15th day of the first Tibetan month. The event, also established by Tsong Khapa, is to celebrate the victory of Sakyamuni against heretics in a religious debate. Giant butter and Tsampa sculptures in different forms of auspicious symbols and figures are displayed in Barkhor Street. Local Tibetan people keep singing and dancing throughout the night on this date.

Saga Dawa Festival
Saga Dawa Festival is one of the three big festivals in Tibet. It is a full month festival honoring Shakyamuni Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. This festival is in the 4th month of the Tibetan calendar. The day is believed to be the time when Sakyamuni was born; stepped into Buddha hood, and attained nirvana. This is obviously a Buddhism Highlighted festival in Tibet. In every horse year in Tibetan calendar, there are many pilgrims around the world go to do the circle trekking around Mt. Kailash. People refrain from killing animals by liberating them and abstain from eating meats.

Tibet Shoton Festival
Shoton Festival is known as Yoghurt Festival in Tibetan. It begins on the thirteenth day of the sixth Tibetan month. Normally this festival is in end of July or early August every year in lunar calendar. The origin of the festival started from the 17th century when pilgrims served yoghurt to the monks who had been doing their summer retreat so hard. Years later, Tibetan opera performances were added to the event to amuse monks in monasteries. During the festival, giant Thangkas of the Buddha are unveiled on the mountain side opposite to Drepung Monastery while Tibetan opera troupes perform at Norbulingka, In the mean time, the "Shinning Buddha" activitiy also happens in Sera Monastery.

Tibet Bathing Festival
The Bathing Festival starts on the 27th day of the seventh lunar month and lasts a week when Venus appears in the sky. Tibetans set up tents along rivers, enjoy their food and bathe themselves under the star light. The holy bath activity was believed to heal all kinds of illnesses and wards off misfortune in human life.

Tibet horse Race Festival

Nakchu Horse Race Festival is the most important folk festival in Tibet. People who gather for the annual horse race festival in Nakchu town construct a tent city. Dressing themselves and their finest horse, thousands of herdsmen participate in the thrilling horse race, archery and horsemanship contest. Other folk activities and commodity fairs are also held. The event falls on early August.
There are different versions of the origin of Gyangtse Horse Rave Festival, which is also popular throughout Tibet. The festival usually falls in June. Horse race, archery contest, and other games are performed to entertain people. Religious activities also are part of the event.

Buddha Unfolding Festival
Buddha Unfolding Festival is celebrated in Tashilhunpo Monastery from the fourteenth to the sixteenth day of the fifth Tibetan month. Unbelievable giant Thangkas of Amitayus, Sakyamuni and Maitreya are displayed on the monastery's Thangka Walls. Thousands of pilgrims rush to the monastery to give their offerings to the Buddhas for the accumulation of their merits. The tradition has lasted for 500 years.

Tsong Khapa Butter Lamp Festival
Tsong Khapa Butter Lamp Festival falls on twenty-fifth day of the tenth Tibetan month. It is a festival when myriads of butter lamps are lit on rooftops with prayers chanted to commemorate the loss of Tsong Khapa who was a great religious reformer adept in Buddhism.

Paying homage to the Holy Mountain Festival (Choekhor Duechcen in Tibetan) falling on the fourth day of the sixth Tibetan month commemorates Sakyamuni's first sermon. People, in their best conduct during the occasion, go to monasteries to pay their respects to the Buddha. Circumambulation around the mountains is the popular practice during the festival. Picnicking, singing and dancing are also part of the event.

Universal Prayers Festival (Zamling Chisang in Tibetan)
falls on the fifteenth day of the fifth Tibetan month. The event commemorates Padmasambhava's subjugation of evil spirits. People go to the monasteries to burn juniper branches.

Harvest Festival (Ongkor in Tibetan)
is celebrated when crops ripen, usually around August. The festival is observed only in farming villages. People walk around their fields to thank the gods and deities for a good year's harvest. Singing, dancing, and horseracing are indispensable folk activities.

Date for Some Tibetan Festivals: 

Festival Year (2016/17) Places
Tibetan New Year 09 February Tibet
Monlam Prayer Festival 12 February Jokhang Temple
Butter Lamp Festival 22 February Barkhor Market
Buddha Day         21 April  Tibet
Cham in Tshurpu Monastery           16 May  Tshurpu Monastery
Saga Dawa Festival 21 May Dzongyab Lukhang (Lhasa) , Tarboche (Kailash)
Cham in Drigung Til Monastery 01 June  Drigung Til
Thangka  Unveiling Tashilunpo 19 July Shigatse, Tashilimphu Monastery
Ganden Thangka Unveiling 18 August Ganden Monastery
Shoton Festival 01 September Norbulinka
Palden Lhamo Festival 13 December Barkhor Square
Tibetan Light Festival 23 December Tibet

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