Scattered sparsely on the vast Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the possibilities for Tibetans getting together were relatively slim. As festivals provide these kinds of opportunity, in their long history many festivals have evolved and have gained great popularity among Tibetans.
People begin preparing for this festival upon entering the 12th Tibetan month, with sacrifices being presented on the altar of their deities and special foods delicately made to welcome the coming year. New Year's Eve is also the time of the highly important Ghost Exorcising Festival. During this day, monasteries hold magnificent sorcerer's dances. Tibetans tidy their houses and decorate them beautifully, with the belief that the cleaning will drive away evil spirits and bad luck. In the evening, after everybody has eaten Guthuk (a kind of food for the New Year), it is time for the ceremony of exorcising ghosts. Torches and fireworks are lit to scare them off, and family members will walk along a road until they reach a crossroad where they believing they can abandon the evil spirits, the spirits being unable of finding the way back to the dwelling they had occupied. Then the New Year arrives. On the morning of the 1st day, local people will make butter lamps to be sacrificed, along with grain, to their gods. They will then don their best clothes and propose toasts with Chang (a Tibetan drink made from highland barley) to neighbors and exchange good wishes and on the second day, they pay a New Year visit to relatives. Usually, this festive event will last until the end of the Great Prayer Festival.
Please check to get Tibetan festivals' holding date in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
|Tibetan New Year||14 Feb||05Mar||22Feb|
|Monlam Prayer Festival||17Feb||08Mar||25Feb|
|Saga Dawa||27 May||15Jun||04Jun|
|Gyantse Horse Race||20Jul||20Jul||20Jul|
|Thangka unveling Tashilunpo||26Jun||15Jul||03Jul|
|Zamling Chisang/Samye Dolde||26Jul||15Jul||03Jul|
|Choekor Duechen/Tukbe Tseshi||15Jul||03Aug||23Jul|
|Ganden Thangka Uneling||25Jul||13Aug||02Aug|
|Karma Dunba (shower festival)||26Aug||14Sep||02Sep|
|Nakchu Horse Race||10Aug||10Aug||10Aug|
|Yushu Horse Race||25Jul||25Jul||25Jul|
|Litang Horse Race||01Aug||01Aug||01Aug|
|Palden Lhamo Festival||21Nov||10Dec||28Nov|
As the grandest of their religious festivals, The Great Prayer Festival is celebrated from the 8th to the 15th day of the first Tibetan month in Lhasa. With a history of over 500 years, it is now the highest religious seminar of Tibetan Buddhism. During the festival, they debate fiercely the Buddhist scriptures and hold religious examinations for learners of the Buddhist scriptures. Disciples from all over will come to worship the Buddha.
The Butter Lamp Festival falls on the 15th day of the first Tibetan month. During the daytime, people go to pray in temples and monasteries while at night there is a butter lamp show. Various lanterns shaped in the image of deities, animals, plants, and human figures are displayed, attracting people from the neighboring areas to appreciate them. Often, there is puppet show held as well and the event will last for several days. The Butter Lamp Festival is believed to be the happiest festival in Tibet.
Saka Dava Festival is observed on April 15th of the Tibetan calendar. This day is said to be the birthday of Sakyamuni, the Great Buddha, and the day he died and became a Buddha as well as the day of the arrival of Princess Wencheng (the queen to Songtsen Gampo, a great Tibetan king of the 7th century AD) in Lhasa. Many religious activities are held this day. People walk out of their houses and circumambulate around the Jokhang Temple and the Potala Palace . The three main circumambulation roads in Lhasa are crowded with devotees praying and prostrating themselves devoutly.
Shoton Festival, which means yogurt banquet in Tibetan, is the liveliest festival of summer. In the past, lamas locked themselves away in their monasteries during this season to devote themselves entirely to Buddhism for a month. When their devotions were over, lamas left the monastery to receive donations from the locals. Normally, people gave them yogurt, had yogurt banquets with them and made performances to welcome them. Nowadays, in the early morning of this day, people crowd into the Drepung Monastery to watch the unfolding of the Buddha. To Buddhists, this holy ceremony is a purification of the sprit and the soul. Later, this festive occasion is celebrated by performing Tibetan Opera in Norbulingka , so it has gained another name, the 'Tibetan Opera Festival'.
Harvest Festival, or Ongkor in Tibetan, often follows the Shoton Festival. It is a festival mainly celebrated in rural areas to pray for a good harvest. On this day, farmers put on their best clothes, carry harvest pagodas made from the ears of highland barley and wheat and circle around their fields beating drums, chanting holy songs and dancing. Then they will gather, drinking Chang and yak butter tea. In some areas, there are other activities as well, such as horse races, archery competitions and performances of Tibetan Opera. After the Harvest Festival, farmers will be busy harvesting their crops.
The Bathing Festival lasts for one week in the early part of the 7th month. Legend has it that pestilence was widely spread, leading to great suffering of the people. The Avalokitesvara, one of the Buddhist deities, poured holy water into the rivers of Tibet. After bathing in the rivers, people recovered miraculously from their illnesses. Ever since, at this time every year, people bathe themselves in rivers. This custom has been handed down from generation to generation and gradually developed into a festival. It is believed that river baths during this week will not only clean the body, but also wash away potential diseases.
In addition to the festivals above, there are many other festivals that are celebrated regionally, click Shigatse Festivals, Chamdo Festivals, Nakchu Festivals, Ngari Festivals, and Nyingchi Festivals for more information on festivals in these regions.