Tibet Festivals & Calendar 2017

28 February 2017 Last updated at 11:45

Want to know more about Tibetan culture? Then, take a glance at the time-honored Tibetan festivals. Tibetan festivals are the foundation of Tibetan folk culture, a witness of the splendid history of Tibet and the creativity of Tibetan people.

Tibetans celebrate festivals almost every month, and there might be several in a single month. Joining one would definitely make your Tibet trip sparkle! Below we list the major traditional Tibetan festivals to help you better plan your Tibet tour.

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Tibet Festivals Calendar 2017

Date on Tibetan CalendarDate on Solar Calendar 2017
Tibetan New Year (Losar)
Jan. 1
Feb. 27
Great Prayer Festival (Monlam)
Jan. 4
Mar. 2
Butter Lantern Festival
Jan. 15
Mar. 12
Saga Dawa Festival
Apr. 15
Jun. 9
Universal Prayers Festival (Zamling Chisang)
May 15
Jul. 9
Holy Mountain Festival (Choekor Duechen)
Jun. 4
Jul. 27
Ganden Thangka Unveiling Festival
Jun. 9
Aug. 1
Gyantse Dharma Festival
Jun. 14
Aug. 6
Shoton Festival
Jul. 1
Aug. 21
Nakchu Horse Racing Festival
Jun. to Jul.
Aug. to Sep.
Bathing Festival (Karma Dunba)
Jul. 6-12 (when Venus appears)
Sept. 19-25
Harvest Festival (Ongkor)
Buddha's Descent Day
Sept. 22
Nov. 10
Gongbu New Year Festival
Oct. 1
Nov. 19
Palden Lhamo Festival
Oct. 15
Dec. 3
Tsongkhapa Butter Lamp Festival
Oct. 25
Dec. 12

Tibetan New Year (Losar)

  • Losar Date: 1st - 3rd of the first lunar month (Tibetan Calendar)
  • Losar Festival Date 2017 (Tibetan New Year 2017 Date): Feb 27, 2017 on solar calendar
  • The most important festival in Tibet.
  • Immediately following the Ghost Exorcising Festival (Dec 29 on Tibetan Calendar).
  • Celebrated for 2 weeks, according to traditions.
  • Celebrating styles vary in different areas, with Lhasa the most representative.

Read more about Tibetan New Year Festival

Tibetan Opera Performance in Lhasa
Tibetan opera performance at Dragon King Lake Park of Lhasa during Tibetan New Year

Butter Lamp Festival (Losar Lantern Festival)

  • Date: January 15 (Tibetan Calendar)
  • Mark the close of the Tibetan New Year festivities.
  • Tibetans go to temples to burn incense and worship Buddhas in the day and migrate to a lantern show in the evening.
  • Tibetans use ghee to make works of art known as "butter flowers" which take the shape of Buddha figures, landscapes, pavilions, birds, beasts, flowers, trees, etc.

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Butter Figure of Tsongkhapa
Butter figures of Tsongkhapa and his disciples made by Jokhang Temple

Saga Dawa Festival

  • Date: April 15 (Tibetan Calendar)
  • An influential religious festival in Tibet.
  • April 15 on Tibetan Calendar is believed to be the time when Sakyamuni was born, stepped into Buddhahood, and attained nirvana.
  • The festivities, starting from April 1, will last for 1 month.
  • The biggest ritual is to worship Buddha and circumambulate in the inner, middle and outer parts of Lhasa.
  • Sutra chanting, prayer turning, Cham dancing and other religious activities dominate the festival.
  • Many people refrain from killing animals and give out alms to everyone who asks for it.

Read more about Saga Dawa Festival

Saga Dawa Festival
Tibetans worship temples duiring Saga Dawa Festival

Shoton Festival (Yoghurt Festival)

  • Date: June 30 (Tibetan Calendar)
  • The liveliest festival of summer.
  • Traditionally begin with exhibitions of Thangkas of Buddha.
  • As Tibetan operas are performed and giant Thangkas of Buddha are exhibited, it is also called "Tibetan Opera Festival" or "Buddha Exhibition Festival".
  • Gala parties, yak racing and horsemanship displays are held during this period.

Read more about Shoton Festival

Buddha Exhibition
Buddha Exhibition during Shoton Festival

Bathing Festival

  • Date: Jul. 6-12
  • Last for 1 week.
  • It is believed when the sacred Venus appears in the sky, the water in the river can cure diseases. So Tibetans go to bathe in rivers to wash away potential diseases and wards off misfortune.

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Bathing Festival
Tibetans bathe in rivers during Bathing Festival to have a good health

Ongkor Festival (Harvest Festival)

  • Date: in August (Tibetan Calendar)
  • A traditional harvest festival held in farming areas when crops ripen.
  • The main ritual is to walk around the crop fields.
  • Activities such as singing, dancing, horseracing, and archery are held.

Read more about Ongkor Festival

Circumambulation of Crop Fields
Tibetans circumambulation crop fields during Ongkor Festival

Horse Racing Fair and Archery Festival

  • Date: between June and July (Tibetan Calendar)
  • The most well-known events are Nakchu Horse Racing Festival and Gyantse Horse Racing Festival.
  • Dressing themselves and their finest horses, hundreds of herdsmen take part in thrilling horse racing, archery and horsemanship contests.
  • Generally lasting several days, with the longest ones over 10 days.
  • Folk dance, art performance, barter trade and other activities add more to the festive mood.

Read more about Horse Racing Fair and Archery Festival

Nakchu Horse Racing Festival
Nakchu Horse Racing Festival

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Escorted by a skilled private drivers and companied by a professional local tour guide to organize all the activities, all you have to do is to enjoy your fantastic Tibet journey. Time can never be wasted waiting for a group, hopping on and off buses or negotiating unfamiliar destinations.

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