Losar is one of the most celebrated festivals in Bhutan. Losar literally means New Year, where “lo” means “year” and “sar” means “new”. It is a time for family reunions, strengthening communal ties, and celebrating cultural traditions with rites and bonds. Losar is celebrated on the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar. The lunar calendar is based on the Tibetan calendar which was in turn based on the Mongolian calendar centuries ago. It normally doesn’t align with the Gregorian calendar and as such we don’t celebrate on the 1st of January.
How we celebrate New Year in Bhutan
Being one of the most significant celebrations, the country observes a national holiday, with government offices and schools closed. In 2022, it will be celebrated on March 3rd; the celebration can last up to two weeks; however, the first three days of the New Year are the most important.
The first day of New Year marks the end of the year when people wish for peace and prosperity for themselves, their families, and their animals. The day begins with a bath and offering milk, butter, rice, green leaves, and other items to each house’s altar. They purify their homes by burning juniper incense and then lighting butter lamps to ward off evil spirits. People in communities also place colourful prayer flags on top of their homes to pray for a prosperous year free of deaths and illnesses in the home and village. On this day, temples and monasteries are lavishly decorated, and special rituals known as “puja” are performed at the monasteries. The torma (Buddhist cake) ceremony, in which prayers are made to align everyone’s energies for the coming year is the highlight.
Bhutanese people, like most other Asian nations, cheerfully greet each other with warm wishes during these brief days and are inundated with thousands of greetings and messages on Losar eve and day. People say “Tashi Delek” to each other during this special event because it is a local greeting and a wish for a lucky and prosperous new year. New Year in Bhutan is also a good time to try a variety of national dishes, such as red rice, stews, and chilli peppers, as well as a sweet menu that includes fried biscuits, diced sugar cane, and fruit. Sugarcane and green bananas, according to local belief, must be presented on this occasion because they bring good fortune for the coming year.
The biggest celebration occurs when families and friends visit each other’s homes and local monasteries to celebrate and share meals. Long into the night, there is dancing and singing. People exchange gifts, dress up in new clothes for Losar, and enjoy simple pleasures such as family gatherings and watching movies at home. They spend their time celebrating and rejoicing in life.
On this day, families enjoy outdoor activities together, such as going on a picnic. Darts and Archery, Bhutan’s national sports, are played during the Losar New Year. The locals drink huge amounts of alcohol and drown themselves in the revelry of their traditional hard liquor, ara. Everyone abandons their fields and important tasks to celebrate the day wholeheartedly. Many people in the tiny country of Bhutan also use it as an opportunity to make new year’s resolutions in order to stay motivated in the coming year.
After a very difficult 2021, It is hard to believe that the western New Year has arrived, but it has! Bhutan, like the rest of the globe, is looking forward to 2022 with confidence and excitement. Bhutanese people are optimistic that 2022 will be considerably different from 2021. People wish for significantly less suffering and loss, as well as greater normalcy, joy, and happiness.
We wish you all a peaceful and prosperous New Year.