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Major Festivals in Tibet

The Saga Dawa Festival

It is called the festival to free captive animals in local custom. Through the whole fourth month, monks do not eat meat and do not commit slaughter. They only concentrate themselves on turning prayer wheels and reciting Buddha’s scriptures. It is said that on the 1st of the fourth month is the day that Shakyamuni was born and became enlightened and achieved nirvana. On this day every year, people in their holiday best, singing and dancing and go into parks for their dinner party.

Tibetan New Year

Tibetan New Year is the greatest festival in Tibet. In ancient times, when the peach trees were in blossom, it was considered the start of a new year. Since the systematization of the Tibetan calendar in 1027 AD, the first day of the first month became fixed as the New Year. On New Year's Day, families unite, an "auspicious dinner" is offered, and the auspicious words "Tashi Delek" are greeted.

Lhasa’s Shoton Festival

On the First of the Seventh month, or August in Gregorian calendar, traditionally, after the monks are required to remain sequestered in their monasteries for the ascetic practice of Buddhism, people from their families prepared sour milk for them to drink with dancing following in their period of confinement. Shoton meansYogurt Festival. In the early 17th century, the Shoton festival became a joint performance with the Tibetan operas. Tibetan artists with different schools from all over Tibet came to gather in Norbu Lingka to have a performing competition, which lasted for several days. During this period, the Drepung Monastery would hold a large portrait of Buddha displaying ceremony.

Tibet’s Harvest (Wongkor) Festival

It is an occasion that Tibetans long for a bumper harvest. When the important moment comes, people in their colorful clothes uphold colored flags with good wishes. They make a pagoda of harvest with the ceremonial scarves twining round the highland barley and the wheat ears, beating drums and gongs, singing in their odes and walk around the fields in prayers for a bumper harvest, and then followed by a horse race. The autumn harvest starts as soon as the festival is over.

Prayer Festival

It is one of the greatest religious festival in Tibet which was instituted by Tsongkapa in 1409, the founder of the Gelukpa Sect. Monks from the Three Great Monasteries of Tibet assemble in Jorkhang to pray to Shakyamuni's image as if it were the living Buddha. Philosophical debates are held among candidates for the Doctorate of Metaphysics. Pilgrims come from every corner of Tibet and donations are offered to monks. 

Butter Lamp Festival

The Butter Lamp Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month every year. Monks from monasteries and local artists make various-shaped butter flowers with colored butter in pyramids in front the Jokhang Temple. In the evening, after the butter lamps are lit, their lights look just like stars dazzling in the sky. The pyramids made of butter include of immortals, animals, flying birds, beasts, and flowers.

The Festival of driving out evil spirits

Every 29th of the twelfth month in Tibetan calendar is a big day for the sorcerer’s dancing held by monasteries all over Tibet. Households clean their houses thoroughly and decorate them beautifully. Because the New Year is coming, the dirty things and evils must be cleared away; people pray for their families for good health and wish a bumper harvest for the coming year.

The Six Four Festival

On the fourth of the sixth month in Tibetan calendar, in Lhasa area, people in their new clothes go into temples nearby. With their offerings to Buddha, they pray to the Buddha’s images for blessing in murmurs. After that, they go out into the open grass with drinks to their hearts content and dance happily. 

Heavenly Maid Festival

It is well known as the Celestial Mother Festival Belha Rabzhol in Tibetan. Each year, on the 15th of the tenth month in Tibetan calendar, religious activities are held in temples throughout Tibet. Tibetan women love the festival because they think this is a special occasion for themselves, therefore, they look very active and feel extremely happy. 

Tsongkapa's Death Anniversary

It is held on the 25th day of the 10th month, which is in November or December in Gregorian calendar. It is the day on which Tsongkapa, the founder of the Gelug Sect met his demise. Every household light lamps on roofs of houses and windowsills chanting prayers in memory of Tsongkapa in the night. 

Gyantse Horse Race and Archery

Horse racing and archery are very popular in Tibet, Contests in early times included horse races, archery, and shooting on galloping horse-back followed by a few days' entertainment or picnicking. Presently, ball games, track and field events, folk songs and dances, also form part of the celebrations.

Bathing Festival

In the 7th month in Tibetan calendar or in September in Gregorian calendar is the period, which the Venus appears only for seven nights in one year. Tibetan people think the water is specially holy and clean during this week. They believe that the dirt can be washed off, illness can be cured and their health can be improved. During the week, people all go to riverbanks for bathing, washing their clothes and playing at their pleasure.

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