Letter from Lhasa: Reveling in vibrant spirit of Tibetan New Year-Xinhua

Letter from Lhasa: Reveling in vibrant spirit of Tibetan New Year

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-02-10 18:25:46

by Huang Yaoman

LHASA, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- While much of China was buzzing with the excitement of Spring Festival celebrations on Saturday, I was invited to a Tibetan friend's home in rural Lhasa to take part in the joyous festivities of the Tibetan New Year, the most important festival for Tibetans.

During my visit, I not only had the chance to savor delectable traditional dishes but also experience the vibrant local festival customs. It was truly a unique and remarkable experience.

Before my visit to my friend Losel's house, I had a Tibetan costume made for me. Rather than opting for readymade costumes, locals prefer to have their traditional attire tailored.

Perhaps that's why in the days leading up to the Tibetan New Year, tailoring stores lining Barkhor Street in the heart of Lhasa were packed with customers.

The street was also brimming with festive vibes, with people swarming into traditional markets and stores offering a huge variety of goods to make special purchases for the festival.

As the Tibetan New Year coincides with the Spring Festival this year, tourists from other parts of China, who are enjoying an eight-day holiday, have also headed to the plateau city, immersing themselves in the festivity.

With gifts in hand, I set off for Losel's place early in the morning. It was a drive of over two hours from downtown Lhasa. The sparse crowds and quietness along the way stirred a momentary sense of solitude, contrasting with the anticipated hustle and bustle. However, upon arriving at Losel's home, the reason became clear.

Losel's entire family, dressed up in traditional attire, filled the living room, joined by his brother's family and their parents. "We're not going out today. We're just staying with family," Losel told me.

Upon arrival, I was greeted with a customary welcome ritual. Presented with a chema box, a two-tier rectangular wooden container filled with roasted barley and fried wheat grain, I followed Losel's lead and tossed some of the grains into the air twice before savoring the rest in my hand. Losel then draped a Khata, a ceremonial white scarf symbolizing goodwill and blessings, around my neck.

As I extended my greetings in the limited Tibetan language I had learned only recently, saying "Losar Tashi Delek" (Happy New Year), my lame pronunciation amused them, adding to the convivial atmosphere.

The tea table in the living room was filled with an array of unfamiliar snacks made from barley and yak butter, alongside familiar items like Budweiser beer. When I reached for a can of Coke on the table, I was surprised to see Japanese language labeling on it.

Noticing my astonishment, Losel explained, "I purchased the cola from a store of imported goods in Lhasa, as part of my new year purchase."

Seeing my curiosity about the Tibetan New Year customs, they told me that on the 29th day of the twelfth month of the Tibetan calendar, they gather to enjoy Guthuk, a kind of soup made from flour with nine different ingredients including wool and chili.

Another festival custom is fetching water in the early morning, which is believed to bring good luck for the new year.

I was later told that Losel's wife used to walk several kilometers to the river for the water. Now however, all she needs to do is turn on the kitchen tap and there freely flows the water.

Locals in Xizang also have an eight-day holiday this year for the Tibetan New Year. During this time, they would visit relatives and participate in festive activities, such as the grand horse racing event in Lhasa, which I'm also planning to watch.

The new year has just begun, and I am filled with excitement, ready to explore what it has in store for me.