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Tibet Festival Calendar
Lhosar (Tibetan New Year)
Tibetan New Year is the most important festival in Tibet. It is an occasion when Tibetan families reunite and expect a better coming year. Known as Losar, the festival starts from 1st to 3rd of the 1st Tibetan month. Specially made offerings are offered to family shrine deities; doors are painted with religious symbols; other painstaking jobs are done to prepare for the event. On the New Year's Eve, Tibetans eat barley crumb food (Guthuk in Tibetan) with their families and have fun since the barley crumbs are stuffed with different stuffing to fool someone in the family. After the dinner it is the Festival of Banishing Evil Sprits! Torches are lit and people are running and yelling to get rid of evil spirits from their houses. The New Year is coming! Before the dawn on the New Year's Day, housewives fetch their first buckets of water in the new year home and prepare breakfast. After dressing up, people open their doors upon prayers and go to monasteries. People visit their neighborhoods and exchange their Tashi Delek blessings in the first two days. Feast is the theme during the session. On the third day, old prayer flags will be replaced with new ones. Other folk activities may be held in some areas to celebrate the events.

Monlam Festival

Monlam, the Great Prayer Festival, falls on 4th -11th day of the 1st Tibetan month. The event was established in 1049 by Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama's order. As the grandest religious festival in Tibet, religious dances are performed and thousands of monks gather for chanting before the Jokhang Temple. Examination for Geshe degree (the highest degree in Buddhist theology), taking form of sutra debates, are held. Pilgrims crowd to listen to sermons and to make religious donations.

Chunga Choepa (The Butter Lamp Festival)
The Butter Lamp Festival, Chunga Choepa in Tibetan, falls on 15th day of the 1st Tibetan month. The event was also established by Tsong Khapa to celebrate the victory of Sakyamuni against heretics in a religious debate. Various giant butter and Tsampa sculptures, in forms of auspicious symbols and figures, are displayed on Barkhor. People keep singing and dancing throughout the festive night.

Saka Dawa Festival
On the 15th day of the 4th Tibetan month is Saka Dawa Festival. The day is believed to be the day when Sakyamuni was born, step into Buddhahood and attained nirvana. Tibetans believe that one merit equals myriads of merits accumulated the other days. People keep from killing animals, refrain from eating meats and liberate animals. Sutra chanting, prayer turning, Cham dancing and other religious activities dominate the session. Offering sacrifices to the female deity enshrined in the temple on the islet of the Dragon King Pond, boating in the pond and picnicking add more festive mood.

Yoghurt or Shoton Festival
Shoton Festival (also Yoghurt Festival) begins on the 30th of the 6th Tibetan month. The origin of the festival started from the 17th century. When monks stopped their summer retreat which was intended not to kill newly hatched insects, pilgrims came to serve them with yogurt. Later Tibetan opera performances were added to the event to amuse monks in monasteries. During the festival, giant Thangkas of the Buddha is unveiled in Drepung Monastery and Tibetan opera troupes perform operas at Norbulingka.

Bathing Festival
Bathing Festival starts on 27th of the 7th lunar month and lasts a week, when Venus appears in the sky. Tibetans brings food and set up tents along rivers and bathe themselves in star light. The holy bath is considered to be able to heal all diseases and get rid of misfortune.

Nakchu Horse Race Festival
Nakchu Horse Race Festival is a most important folk festival in Tibet. People gather in Nakchu town and 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 the early august annually.

Gyangtse Horse Rave Festival
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 14th to 16th of the 5th Tibetan month. Unbelievable giant Thangkas of Amitayus, Sakyamuni and Maitreya will be displayed on the monastery's Thangka Wall successively. Thousands of pilgrims rush to the monastery to pay their offerings to the Buddhas and accumulate their merits. The tradition has lasted for 500 years.

Tsong Khapa Butter Lamp Festival
Tsong Khapa Butter Lamp Festival falls on 25th day of the 10th Tibetan month, when myriads of butter lamps are lit on rooftops, and prayers are chanted, to memorize the passing away of Tsong Khapa who was a great religious reformer and adept in Buddhism.

Choekhor Duechcen Festival
Paying Homage to the Holy Mountain Festival, Choekhor Duechcen in Tibetan, falling on 4th of the 6th Tibetan month, is to commemorate Sakyamuni's first sermon. People, in their best conduct during the session, go to monasteries to pay homage to the Buddha. Circumambulation around mountains is the popular practice in the festival. Picnicking, singing and dancing are also part of the activities.

Zamling Chisang (Universal Prayers Festival)
Universal Prayers Festival, Zamling Chisang in Tibetan, falls on 15th of the 5th Tibetan month. The event is to commemorate Padmasambhava's Subjugation of evil spirits. People go to monasteries and burn juniper branches.

Ongkor (Harvest Festival)
Harvest Festival, Ongkor in Tibetan, is celebrated when crops ripen, usually around August. The festival is celebrated only in farming villages. People walk around field to bless for a harvest year. Singing, dancing, and horseracing are indispensable folk activities.

(Converted timetable of festival events from 2002 to 2005)

Year 2002
Year 2003
Year 2004
Year 2005
Tibetan New Year Feb 13th Mar 3rd Feb 21st Feb 9th
The Great Prayer Festival (Monlam) Feb 20th - Feb 28th Mar 11th - Mar 19th Feb 28th - Mar 7th Feb 16th - Feb 25th
Butter Lamp Festival Feb 27th Mar 18th Mar 6th Feb 23rd
Saka Dawa Festival Jun 10th Jun 14th Jun 3rd May 23rd
Buddha Unfolding Festival Jun Jun Jun Jun
Gyangtse Horse Race Festival Jun Jun Jun Jun
Paying Homage to the Holy Mountain Festival Jul 14th Aug 2nd Jul 21st Jul 10th
Shoton Festival Aug 8th - Aug 15th Aug 27th - Sep 3rd Aug 15th - Aug 22nd Sep 3rd - Sep 10th
Nakchu Horse Race Festival Aug 10th - Aug 16th Aug 10th - Aug 16th Aug 10th - Aug 16th Aug 10th - Aug 16th
Bathing Festival Sep 7th Sep 26th Sep 14th Sep 3rd
Universal Prayers Festival Aug 11th Aug 1st Aug 19th Sep 6th
Tsong Khapa Butter Lamp Festival Dec 29th Dec 18th Dec 7th Dec 26th

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