Lunar New Year is celebrated in many countries around the world — as Losar, the Tibetan New Year, as Chinese New Year, or just as “lunar” new year. Most special occasions in Buddhism align with the lunar calendar.
This year, Losar is on Friday, February 12, 2021, the year of the Golden Ox — or Metal Ox. It signals a change in fortunes for many. Among the most important days of the year in the Buddhist calendar are the 15 Days of Buddha’s Miracles, which commence on Losar (New Years) and span the first 15 days of the lunar new year.
Losar, the Lunar Tibetan New Year, is a day of festivities, celebrated around the world by Tibetans, Tibetan Buddhists and their friends and families. It is one of the biggest holiday events in China, likewise celebrated for many days.
It represents new beginnings, fresh start, and an opportunity to bring in auspiciousness for the new year.
This year is the Year of the Golden Ox (Metal Ox). Celebrations begin February 12, 2021, and can continue for fifteen days as people visit temples, gompas, families and friends.
Before the New Year
Traditionally, celebrants will prepare for Losar by cleaning their houses (sweeping away the misfortunes of the previous year.) Buddhist monasteries and gompas will perform rituals on this last day, the famous mask dances, which symbolically drive away the negative forces of the old year. Traditionally, a person should not clean their house for the first few days of Losar to symbolically preserve the luck. Serious Buddhists might spend the last five or more days on purification practices such as Vajrasattva and Vajrakilaya. There will often be protector pujas, for example to Palden Lhamo, the great protectress of Tibet and the Dalai Lama. [More about Palden Lhamo here>>]
New Years Celebrations — Bringing in the Luck of the Fire Bird
If you are fortunate enough to be in an area with a Tibetan temple or Gompa, there are likely colourful and beautiful celebrations planned — although this year they will likely be streamed or remote events. To help bring in the luck of 2021, the Year of the Golden Ox consider attending and supporting the temple online with a significant donation for merit (good karma). These events might include rituals but are also as likely to include festive performances.
Video from Tibetan Heart Beat for Losar 2017, Best of Amdo Losar Celebrations:
Losar at Home
Traditionally, you decorate your doors and windows to bring home the auspiciousness of the year. Often these decorations are purpose-made with good luck, good fortune, happiness and long life messages. Consider having a festive dinner. The “first meal of the day” should go to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and deities. Before eating breakfast, typically you should make your offerings on your home shrine.
The First Three Days
The first three days of Losar are the most important. The first day is usually for immediately family, the second day for visiting friends and relatives, the third day is for prayers and giving (donating to monks, nuns or temples.)
Not only do you get to party, you are encouraging the good fortune and merit for 2017! One important tradition includes hanging new prayer flags, Wind Horse flags, which carry the good wishes to all corners of the earth on the winds.
Early in the morning, at home we might give our offerings on our personal shrines. When first greeting people, the most common greeting is “Tashi Delek” which basically wishes them good fortune and happiness. The first day of Losar is usually for immediate family. If you are fortunate to be near a temple or Gompa, join the festivities if there are any this day (it may be scheduled for the weekends or other days).
The second day of Losar is gyal-po losar (King’s Losar) and tends to be more secular in nature. Throughout these first few days, people might visit friends and families, wishing them well, and enjoying food and feasts. Of course, it’s a time for dancing, partying and entertainments. Displaying the eight auspicious signs of the Buddha is a good way to bring auspiciousness home (either printed out from your laser printer and hung up, or more elaborate displays).
For traditional Tibetans, the third day is the day for visiting monasteries and gompas and making prayers. This is the time to show generosity, to create merit in the year by donating food, clothing and money to the Lamas, Gurus, monks, and nuns. The third day will be heavy with incense smoke, especially Juniper leaves.
Tashi Delek from your friends at Buddha Weekly!
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Author | Buddha Weekly
Lee Kane is the editor of Buddha Weekly, since 2007. His main focuses as a writer are mindfulness techniques, meditation, Dharma and Sutra commentaries, Buddhist practices, international perspectives and traditions, Vajrayana, Mahayana, Zen. He also covers various events.
Lee also contributes as a writer to various other online magazines and blogs.