Losar, the Tibetan New Year is a fifteen-day holiday celebrated primarily over the first three days. This year, the first day of Losar falls on Friday, February 12. On the Tibetan calendar, this day will signify the first day of the year of the Wood Iron Fox, 2148. Losar is often one of the most festive times in Tibetan culture. The festival represents the cleansing of all negative energy and bad aspects of the past year, as well as joyfully welcoming the new year. It is a time to gather with family and practice cultural rituals of deep importance.
Tibetan Losar predates the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet and has its roots in a winter incense-burning custom of the Bon religion. During the reign of the ninth Tibetan king, Pude Gungyal (617-698), it is said that this custom merged with a harvest festival to form the annual Losar festival.
Throughout the festival of Losar, rituals are completed to rid the negative pieces of the previous year and to celebrate the arrival of the new year. Chod-Shom, the holy altar created in many Tibetan homes, is one of the most sacred rituals. Each altar is beautifully decorated with offerings and auspicious items. The altars signify thankfulness to nature and its protectors for the prosperity they have had in the passing year and seek blessing for the new year. Many traditions and rituals, including Chod-Shom, are practiced by Tibetans all around the world to celebrate Losar. This culmination of the previous year combined with embracing the new year during Losar is a celebration of life and hope for new beginnings.
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“In my nomadic Tibetan tradition, the altar, or Chod-Shom was consistently portable and movable. My parents would take it everywhere, and set it up wherever we were living at any given time. Living in exile, all Tibetans would create their altars this way. These important traditions that we practice during Losar unify us as Tibetans. They bring all Tibetans together on a social, spiritual, and political level. I believe these traditions are so important to share with our family, and our children in order to keep our rich, Tibetan culture alive.”