How-To Guide for Losar — Tibetan New Year [Updated for 2020]

This is a “how-to” guide for Tibetan New Year, Losar, to help you celebrate the lunar new year as Tibetans do all over the world.

Tibetan New Year: Losar Shrine with chemar bo, butter sculptures and sheep's head image at the Gyuto Foundation Center in Richmond, California.

The first day of Losar in 2020 will fall on February 24. By the Tibetan calendar, this will be the first day of the Male Iron Mouse year of 2147.

Losar-related rituals are actually divided into two quite distinct parts. First, we close out the old year and bid goodbye to all its bad aspects and negativities, with activities that center on the eve of the last night of the year, the 29th day – Nyi Shu Gu – of the Tibetan calendar. Only after that do we turn our attention to welcoming the Losar –  the “new year”  – and inviting all good, auspicious things into our homes and our lives.

Here are a bunch of posts telling you, and sometimes showing you with video, how Tibetans celebrate Losar:

Losar-related rituals in Tibet and celebrated by Tibetans all over the world are actually divided into two quite distinct parts.

First, we close out the old year and bid goodbye to all its bad aspects and negativities, with activities that center on the eve of the last night of the year, the 29th day – Nyi Shu Gu – of the Tibetan calendar.

Only after that do we turn our attention to welcoming the Losar –  the “new year”  – and inviting all good, auspicious things into our homes and our lives.

Learn how Tibetans celebrate Losar with these how-to posts, videos and recipes:

Khapse: Tibetan Losar Pastries.

Khapse Recipe: How to Make Tibetan Losar Pastries
Lobsang Wangdu teaches you how to make the most common and simple Losar khapse, called nyapsha. With video.

Losar chemar bo with sheeps- head

Open your Generous Heart: Create a Losar Shrine
In Tibetan homes the Losar altar serves as a prominent, central symbol of a wish to cultivate a generous heart and to invoke beautiful blessings into the lives of our family, friends and community for the New

Khapse Recipes: Bulug

Khapse Recipes: Bulug
As part of a series on the traditions of Losar, Tibetan New Year, here is a recipe for bulug, which is a fairly fancy type of the new year pastries collectively called khapse.

Tsepdro: tibetan butter-sculptures

Tibetan Butter Sculptures — Tsepdro — for Losar
The making of tsepdro — the kind of Tibetan butter sculpture commonly created at Losar (Tibetan New Year)

Droma Root

Insider’s Guide to Losar Eating
An introduction to Tibetan New Year food traditions leading up to Losar, including preparing Losar pastries called khapse, the Eve of New Year’s Eve soup called guthuk, and the chemar bo.

Lobsang’s vegetarian version of guthuk.

Vegetarian Guthuk Recipe
Warm, wonderful, hearty veg version of the recipe for the popular guthuk noodle soup traditionally eaten at the end of the year.

Changkol for Losar morning.

Changkol: To Start Losar Morning off Right
Try some changkol, as Tibetans do, for the first dish you eat on the first day of Losar, Tibetan New Year.

Nyi-shu-Gu Traditions: The Eve of New Year’s Eve
Rituals for purifying your home and body in the closing days of the old year, including the fun guthuk noodle soup, and the lue, the effigy that symbolizes all the negativity we want to be rid of.

Sweet Rice Dish — Dresil

Dresil Recipe: Easy Tibetan Sweet Rice
Learn an easy, authentic recipe for the Tibetan sweet rice served at Losar and other special occasions.

Drechang – Tibetan rice beer.

Tibetan Chang: How to Make Rice Beer
Kelsang shows you, with a video, an authentic, easy recipe for drechang, Tibetan rice beer.

Tseamp

Tsampa: It Doesn’t Get More Tibetan Than This!
An introduction to the most uniquely Tibetan food, tsampa. At Losar, we use tsampa for the chemar bo, for the changkol (khapse and chang dish which we will post about shortly), and to eat on the first day of Losar.

Po Cha: Tibetan Butter Tea

Butter Tea – Recipe to Make Your Own Tibetan Tea (Po Cha)
Modern version of a traditional Tibetan tea recipe by Lobsang Wangdu. Tibetans traditionally drink a bunch of po cha during Losar, though that isn’t exactly special, since they drink po cha all the time anyway.

Thue

Thue: An Original Tibetan Treat
Learn how to make thue, a sweet, cheesy, buttery treat often eaten at Losar and other special occasions.

Momos

Momos — Recipe for Tibetan Dumplings
The most well-known and beloved of Tibetan dishes, momos are popular at Losar parties, though traditionally we do not eat them on the first day of Losar, as the closed shape is considered inauspicious for that day.

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Updated on August 5, 2020. First published on January 4, 2013.

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Comments

  1. Yangchen says

    Tashi Delek,

    Could you explain why we keep and display dummy Sheep head and Green wheat or maize plant (Luphu)? This question been often asked.

    In my understanding it is from Bonpa tradition or nomads offering gratitude for given good crop and livestock and looking forward for better one year ahead.

    Please clarify. Thank you.

    • yowangdu says

      Hi Yangchen,
      We don’t know 100% for sure, but we agree that the Sheep head and Luphu are very likely traditions coming down from nomadic and/or farmers’ and perhaps Bon traditions related to the abundance of crops and herds. If you understand Tibetan, here is a very interesting explanation of the history, in which the speaker says that even the kapse of the derkha represent very old traditions of putting actual sheep’s head and/or bones on the shrine — so the bungu amchoe, for example, which we relate to donkey’s ears, are meant to represent large bones! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEE_hWQ9Igk