Tibetan culture is structured around a lunar calendar, so the dates of holidays, including Losar, fall on different dates of the Western calendar. Losar is the Tibetan version of New Years. It’s a three day festival that combines secular and sacred practices. This is the most important and popular festival in Tibetan society. People hang prayer flags, chant prayers, hold ceremonies, enjoy folks dancing, and, of course, party.
Many of us followers of Tibetan philosophy and religion who do not live in Tibet practice many of the same traditions, but on a much smaller scale. Those of us who sponsor Tibetan monks and nuns have sent special offerings and gifts to them, hopefully arriving in time for Losar. These days conventional letters are supplemented with emails or Skype sessions on Losar.
If we are fortunate, traveling Tibetan cultural groups are scheduled to appear at local venues so we can enjoy famous Tibetan dancers, performers, and musicians. Oftentimes Tibetan lamas and teachers give lectures to their western followers.
During the three days of Losar, each day is dedicated to different religious figures and are celebrated by a variety of traditional ceremonies.
Today, the first day of Losar, honors the personal Dharma teacher or guru. Non-perishable food and grains are placed as offerings on personal and family altars. This is a time of friendship when Tibetans visit family and friends. The first day is also when His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other lamas officiate ceremonies that honor previous historical great Tibetan Buddhist teachers.
For tomorrow, the second day of Losar, Tibetans honor their national and community leaders on Gyalpo (King’s) Losar. This day is noteworthy for the official greetings made by the Dalai Lama with other officials of the Tibetan government in exile. When possible, he also holds court with visiting foreign dignitaries.
On Wednesday, for the third day of Losar, laypeople give special offerings to past and present Dharma protectors. This is the time when Tibetans burn incense and juniper leaves, and new prayer flags are strung up from rooftops and mountains. Again, laypeople and monastics chant and pray during special holiday pujas (ceremonies). Even though the official Losar festival closes on the third day, many Tibetans hold true to old traditions and continue with more parties for up to 15 more days.
The Blue Jay of Happiness thinks it’s time for the Chinese regime to release innocent religious Tibetans from imprisonment. They should not be so harshly punished for peacefully protesting China’s occupation of Tibetan territory.