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LHOSAR, a New Year Celebration for a Better World

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New York, Feb 25, 09- “LHOSAR” is a New Year festival celebrated by Bon/Buddhist Himalayan people of Nepal.

The origin of Lhosar has been traced back to the pre-Buddhist era in the times when Himalayan people practiced the Bon religion. Lhosar is the second most important festival and “Vesak” the Buddha’s birthday is the most important one for Himalayan Buddhist community.

Different Himalayan communities celebrate Losar differently, in different months under different symbolic names. Majority of Himalayan communities celebrate Gyalbu/Gelu Lhosar in the month of February, but exact date varies according to the lunar calendar. Others celebrate Tola Lhosar /Sonam Lhosar a month or two prior to Gyalbo/Gelu Lhosar celebration. Regardless of who, which and when Lhosar is being celebrated, all Himalayan community’s Lhosar are marked with activities that symbolizes purification of negativity and welcoming of New Year with new hopes, new friendship and self-development of compassion, kindness and open mind for a better world.

Lhosar(NewYear) is the Asian Festivalit is being celebrated locally and globally like china,korea,Mongol,Japan,Burma,Thailand,Singapore,Hongkong,Tiwan ,Nepal,Sikkim,
Bhutan and many more countries where resides the mongol peoples in the world. In Nepal different Himalayan communities have added their individual community identity to Lhosar: Tibetan Lhosar, Sherpa Lhosar, Tamu Lhosar, Tamang Lhosar, Managey Lhosar, Mustangey Lhosar, Hyolmo Losar… and many others. Once a strictly Eastern culture, Lhosar is now being celebrated with blended western culture: remixed cultural shows and disco dancing. Why not? After all Lhosar is a time to celebrate togetherness- an occasion to keep oneself in rejoicing spirit with family members, relatives, friends and neighbors: Lhosar is being celebrated from one day to a month. Preparations for Lhosar usually start weeks before the Day and the count down for it may begin even much earlier. Sherpa Lhosar begins on the 29th day of the 12th lunar calendar.

This is the only evening Sherpas all over the world, rich or poor, male or female, young and elders all eat the same food called “Guthuk”, a soup consisting at least nine ingredients. In addition to nine ingredients, Guthuk contains dumplings inserted with different objects: wool, charcoal, hot pepper, paper piece, thread and other objects of personal choice. It is a Sherpa belief that these objects symbolically represents possible indication of fortune or nature of a person whoever gets it.

For instance: a thread is for longevity, wool indicates a pure heart, a charcoal for black heart, a hot pepper might mean foul or sharp tongue etc. This is the evening family members come together to begin the celebration of New Year with feelings of gratitude or soon to be past year. Following this, everyone participates in a religious ceremony to exorcise evil spirits from the previous year, which is the original purpose of eating Guthuk.
Everyone puts some left over soup and “Luu”, a godly effigy which is then put away at a distant road junction. It is a Sherpa belief that doing these symbolizes driving away of personal obstacles, and is believed to keep you in distance by sickness and misfortunes all through the year.

Next in preparation for celebrating Lhosar Sherpas renovate, paint and decorate houses drawing figures of mountain, sun, moon, reversed swastikas and “TashiTagey” eight auspicious Buddhist symbols on the walls inside the house. The family shrine is festooned with “Jamara” grain sprouted green grass, “Chimmar” roasted flour toped with butter, “Poorang” incense and other religious materials. Sherpas believes that the old things that were not much in use in the year won’t bring good luck in the New Year, therefore discard them and bring new utensils and other household appliances into use for Lhosar.

For Sherpas, the first day of New Year is strictly a family day. Dressed with new cloths, in a bright and jovial mood religious duties are performed and blessings from elders are received. A bright and jovial mood on Losar is believed supposedly to ensure that a person will be blessed with great personality and happy thoughts throughout the year. After completion of the offerings to the Buddha and receiving blessings from the elderly begins drinking and eating “Chang-go” boililed “Chhyang’” grain liquor with sugar, butter and dried cheese. Then, Sherpas eat “Deysey” cooked rice dish with dried fruits and nuts. Presents are exchanged while tossing Chang and/or “Suchya” salted butter flavored tea, Chimmer and snacking “Khabse” knotted bread. Greetings are exchanged by saying Tashidheyley (meaning-Prosperity, Sound Health and Goodness!). On New Year’s Day most Sherpas prefers to wear “Chuwa” traditional Sherpa male attire, “Aanghee” traditional Sherpa female attire, and in the morning pay visits of to “Lamas” monks and monasteries with their family.

From the second day onwards, Sherpas visits their relatives and friends. Sharpa houses are piled up with Losar Khabse in anticipation of guest. While being served different Losar dishes by the host family, most of the Sherpas don’t miss an opportunity to enjoy gambling, with games of “Sho” dice and playing cards. Those who may not be interested in gambling, men and women hold hands of each other and sing and dance spontaneously, thus, displaying happiness in the celebration of Losar festival. This dance is called “Shabru” foot movement. Ultimate family gathering, lavish spending and joyous atmosphere dictates through out the celebration. Sherpa younger ones are taught to be kind hearted and hospitable to guests, and on Losar days these cherished values are most visible.

On the third day in the Villages of Nepal as the festivity continues, Sherpas replace the year-old “Dhar-choks and Dhar-shings” hoisting of prayer flags on the roof of their houses with new ones and burn thick bunches of “Sang” incenses. Upon hoisting, barley flour and/or rice are tossed into the air screaming Kyi-kyi So-So Lha Gyalo!!! Meaning happiness, happiness and let God be victorious. It is believed that the hosting of prayer flag is important because it benefits oneself as well as all sentient beings. It pleases the divine beings and Dharmapalas. The pole symbolizes the reader of the Mantra/prayers written on the flags. The wind represents speech. When the wind moves the flag, the prayers are read into the winds, and this will benefit all those whom the wind touches.

From fourth to Fifteenth day of the 1st Lunar month, many religious services are
performed in the monasteries while common people continue to eat, drink and have great time dancing with traditional and modern songs and dances. From the Buddha Dharma’s
point of view it is believed that the first 15 days of Losar are extremely important, because Buddha Sakyamuni spent one day in each of fifteen realms spreading the teaching of Dharma. Therefore, it is said that it is important during these fifteen days to focus our minds on positives and strive to eliminate from us all negative activities.

All New Years are joys occasion. Unlike other New Years, Losar celebration of the people of Himalayan community is mostly devoted to embrace the teaching of Buddha. A new Year is not only a New Year but is also passing away of a year from human lifespan. Human life is shorter by each New Year, and years fly before one could achieve anything worthwhile. Since we all are unsure of opportunities and possibilities our lives may hold for us in the coming year, Every Year we must attempt to create brotherhood/sisterhoods amongst all people of all ethnicity, casts, nationalities and religious backgrounds. We can do this by practicing we are all one, and all is one. This is the Sherpaness of Sherpa Losar, and with such thought, is how Sherpa Losar is concluded. Losar Tashidheyley.

-Tsewang Sherpalama, Former Chairman of United Sherpa Association, New York,USA

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