Tibet : Major Festivals

Bright and Miraculous Traditional Festivals: Tibet has 20 or 30 big and small traditional festivals a year. During the festivals, friends get together. Both men and women sing songs and perform dances and vie to demonstrate their artistic abilities. These festivals have a long history and most are connected with religion. As the time goes, these festivals have a tendency towards folk customs and pleasure. Tibetan New Year :The First Day of the Tibetan new year always falls in February or March and is the most important festival of the Tibetan people. In early 12th month of the Tibetan year, the Tibetan people begin to buy goods and materials for the celebration of the New Year. Of them the rectangular Droso-chema with colorful patterns and offerings are the most important. The Droso-chema is stuffed with buttered highland barley, fried wheat grains and sapodilla. On its cover are highland barley ears, cockscomb flowers and buttered flowers. In early morning of the first day of the Tibetan New Year, the people in their rich dresses, with Droso-chema in their hands, visit their relatives and friends and exchange greetings. In the following few days, they sing and dance, drink wines together with their relatives and friends or go to the nearby monastery to pay their respects to the Buddha. You could feel the Festival atmosphere every where.

Buttered Sculpture Festival : This festival is held on the 15th day of the first month of the Tibet year. During the festival, lamas from various monasteries and folk artists make colorful buttered sculptures in the shapes of flowers, immortals, figures, birds and animals. They hang these sculptures onto the flower frames in the Jokhang Temple. In the evening, they ignite these butter oil lamps. During the festival, there are puppet performances.

Saga Dawa Festival : Also known as the Festival for Releasing Living Things, during this festival, Tibetan people do not eat meat and kill any living things in the fourth month of the Tibetan year in order to concentrate their efforts on worshipping. A legend says on the 15th day of the fourth month of the Tibetan year Sakyamuni was born, became a Buddha and died. On this day each year, the people will dress in their splendid attire and sing and dance and have a picnic or gathering in Lingka. Dama Festival in Gyangze :On the 18th day of the fourth month of the Tibetan year or in May or June, the farmers and herdsmen in Gyangze (or those from Yadong, Xigaze and businessmen even from Lhasa) gather in Gyangze for horse racing, archery competitions, singing and dancing, amusements and exchanging goods and materials. (This festival was originated in 1408.)

Worshipping Festival : On the fourth day of the sixth month of the Tibetan year, it is the festival of the people in the U areas. During this festival, the people in their festival attire and with their food go to famous monasteries nearby to pay their respects to Buddha and chant scriptures. After that they have a happy outing and do not go home before the sunset.

Shoton Festival in Lhasa : The first day of the seventh month of the Tibetan year is the Shoton Festival, or the Yogurt Banquet Festival, which falls in August. When the lamas came back from their cultivation in mountains, they were welcomed by local people and their relatives with yogurt and had an outdoor banquet. Since the 17th century, opera performances have been given during the festival. Tibetan artists from different schools from various parts gather in Norbulingka, Lhasa, for opera performances and competitions for several days. At the same time, a ceremony for sunning Buddha will be held at the Drepung Monastery.

Kyagqen Horse Racing Festival in Qangtang: On August 10, this festival is the most magnificent in north Tibet. In the golden season of grassland, tens of thousands of herdsmen from various parts of Tibet come to Nagqu on their horses with various kinds of goods and materials. They put up tents in the southern part of Nagqu Town. During the festival, there are exciting horse racing and archery contests and horsemanship performances.

Bathing Festival : This one-week festival falls in the seventh month of the Tibetan year or in September when the Venus appears. During this week, the water is believed more pure and clearer for washing off the dirt on their body and curing any diseases they have in order to have a good health. The Tibetan people in various health. The Tibetan people in various parts have bath, wash their clothes and play in the rivers and lakes.

Wangkor Festival : Held before they gather in their crops, for this festival the people express their wish for a good harvest. The festival lasts for one to three days. In splendid attire and having colorful flags in their hands, the people tie highland barley and wheat heads into a bumper-harvest pagoda with khatag scarves. Then they walk around their fields while beating drums and gongs and singing songs before a horse racing. After the festival they begin to harvest their crops.

Goinbo Festival in Nyingchi : This festival falls on the first day of the 10th month of the Tibetan year or in November or December. A legend says in the old times the king of Goinbo led his forces to resist invaders. In memory of heroic soldiers, the people in Goinbo offered sacrifices and kept watch at night. Later the memorial activities developed into the Goinbo Festival. During the festival, there are dances, horse racing and archery competitions, exchanges of goods and materials, drinking wine and singing.

Fairy Maiden Festival : Also known as the Mother of Heaven Festival, this festival falls on the 15th day of 10th month of the Tibetan year. Women believe this festival is their own festival and are active in all kinds of activities.

Gahden-Namgye (Illumination) Festival : This festival falls on the 25th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan year or in November or December. A legend says it was the day on which the great reformer and the founder of the Yellow Sect Zonggaba achieved his attainment in cultivation. During this festival, the people ignite heir numerous lamps on the roofs of their houses and chant scriptures to pay their respects to Zonggaba.

Sorcerer's Dance Festival : On the 29th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan year, the monasteries in various places will hold a grand ceremony to drive off devils for the coming new year. All the families will clean their houses and put on new decorations. People believe before the coming of the next year, all devils and dirt things should be cleared away in order to have a good weather for the crops, a happy life and good harvest in the next year.


Festival Name Year 2011 Year 2012
Tibetan New Year 05 Mar 22 Feb
Monlam Prayer Festival 08 Mar 25 Feb
Butter Lamp 19 Mar 08 Mar
Saga Dawa 15 Jun 04 Jun
Gyantse Horse Race 20 Jul 20 Jul
Thangka unveling Tashilunpo 15 Jul 03 Jul
Zamling Chisang/Samye Dolde 15 Jul 03 Jul
Choekor Duechen/Tukbe Tseshi  03 Aug 23 Jul
Ganden Thangka Uneling 13 Aug 02 Aug
Shoton Festival 29 Aug 17 Aug
Labrang Festival 07 Aug 25 Aug
Karma Dunba (shower festival) 14 Sep 02 Sep
Nakchu Horse Race 10 Aug 10 Aug
Yushu Horse Race 25 Jul 25 Jul
Litang Horse Race  01 Aug 01 Aug
Lhabab Duechen 17 Nov 06 Nov
Palden Lhamo Festival 10 Dec 28 Nov
Ganden Nga-Cho 20 Dec 8 Dec
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