There are many festivals throughout the year in Tibet and these attract the faithful as well as curious onlookers..These colorful traditional and exotic festivals are spread throughout the year with one or two of some kind for each month.The festivals are often rituals,farming events,celebrations,social gatherings or simple amusement which reflect the historical roots of the Tibetan ethnic people,their religious belief and closeness to nature.
Tibetan new year (February)
It is the greatest festival in Tibet. In ancient times when the peach tree was in blossom, it was considered as the starting of a new year. Since the systematization of the Tibetan calendar in 1027 A.D., The first day of the first month became fixed as the new year. On the new year's the families unite "auspicious dinner" is offered and the auspicious words " tashi delek" are greeted. It is the most colorful festival of Lhasa.
Saga Dawa Festival (May/June)
The Saga Dawa festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 4th Tibetan month and is one of the most important religious festivals celebrated in Tibet. This auspicious day coincides with three important events in Buddha's life namely his birth, nirvana and parinirvana (death). Since the Saga Dawa festival falls on the holiest month of the Tibetan calendar, it is believed that good deeds and prayers are multiplied thousand fold during this event. So we can see everyone immersed in prayers and trying to appease the gods.
During the fourth month of the Tibetan calendar, many people refrain from killing animals and give out alms to everyone who comes asking for it. There may not be overt celebrations everywhere, but even then you can easily discern the festive spirit in the air during the Saga Dawa festival. If you are in Tibet around that time, don't forget to be a part of the huge crowd that visits the Dzongyab Lukhang Park at the foot of Potala for a late afternoon picnic. In fact, this has become some sort of a yearly ritual for the people in Tibet.
The Tarboche flagpole replacing exercise is also an interesting event that takes place during the Saga Dawa festival. As people from all parts of Tibet gather here for this annual event, they bring small prayer flags to attach to the big flag that comes up with the combined help of the onlookers that come to witness the event. It is really fascinating to watch this event that is presided over by a Lama from the nearby monastery.
Gyantse horse race & archery (May/June)
Horse race and archery are generally popular in Tibet, and gyantse enjoys prestige of being the earliest in history by starting in 1408. Contests in early times included horse race, archery, and shooting on gallop followed by a few days' entertainment or picnicking. Presently ball games, track and field events, folk songs and dances, barter trade are in addition to the above.
Changtang chachen horse race festival
As the most important festival in north Tibet during the golden season on the grassland, thousand of herdsmen throng to nakchu riding fine horses, and carrying the local products. They form as city of tens south of nakchu town. There will be thrilling horse race, archery and demonstrations of horsemanship. Songs and dance troupes from all part of Tibet will add to the fun.
Shoton festival (August)
It is the opera festival and the greatest festivals in Tibet. In ancient times pious folks went into mountain hermitages of which yoghurt was served for meal followed by entertainment of folk songs and dances. Since 7th century, opera performances were held for days in norbu lingka. Presently, opera contests and distribution of prizes are held for seven days.
On the 15th day of the 6th Tibetan month, 25 precious articles belonging to ganden monastery, which are normally locked in their treasure house, are displayed in the main shrine hall. A grand offering ceremony accompanies the display. These articles consist of the images of the sixteen arhats, akshobhya, the secret assembly, the four great kings, the upasaka and hashang image.
Harvest festival (September)
The farmers in Lhasa, gyantse and shangnan to celebrating their bumeer harvest in this time. During that time, people enjoy with horse racing games, costume fashion show, songs and dance archery and picnic etc.