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Festivals

Tibetan festivals have multiple origins and qualities. Though most of them are related to Buddhism, we can still seek for the general look of Tibetan and Chinese cultures and the historical clues of cultural exchange between them.


Shoton Festival

Shoton Festival originates from the 11th century. It had been exclusively a religious observance until the 17th century when the Great 5th Dalai Lama introduced the Tibetan opera into the celebration, making it a nationwide gala. Being the largest and most mysterious festival on the roof of the world, Shoton Festival serves as a showcase to rooted tradition, appealing culture and great piety of the Tibetan people. Global travelers, who urge to discover more than just turquoise lakes and snow capped mountains on this forbidden land, are drawn to Tibet at this time of year.

The festival mainly consists of 3 parts - Great Buddha Display, Tibetan Opera Show and Horsemanship & Yak Race Show. In combination they represent the best of Tibetan religion, culture and tradition.

Generally speaking, the Shoton Festival comes in each August according to the Gregorian calendar, and it falls on the 11th, August, 2018. Travelling to Tibet in summer is very comfortable thanks to good weather, yet August is also the very peak season in the Tibet tourism owing to worldwide summer vacations. The days when the festival precede sees the peak time at this peak season, there will be definitely no hotel, guide or vehicle left available if late booking. If you decide to join in this cultural gala on the roof of the world, we suggest you book a tour as early as possible.

What follows are some of the best selected tour packages for your summer vacation, not only with the must-see festival highlights included but also with the unique and breathtaking Tibet natural beauties.
- Shoton Festival plus Lhasa-Kathmandu Tour 8 Days
- Shoton Festival plus Mt. Everest9 Days
- Shoton Festival in the holy city Lhasa only5 Days

Tibetan New Year

The establishment of Tibetan New Year has close relationship with usage of Tibetan calendar, which can date back to more than 950 years ago. From then on, it became a survival of the past. Tibetans start preparing for New Year Holiday in Dec of Tibetan calendar. During the process, whole families will infuse barley seeds in basins. On the New Year Eve, every family will present all kinds of foods in front of Buddha images and keep busy preparing deep into the night, so that there will be plentiful food during the holiday. On the first day of the Tibetan New Year (first day of lunar calendar), the first thing Tibetans must do is sending one family member to take a barrel of water home from the river, the first barrel of water in the new year is called auspicious water. Form the second day, relatives and friends begin to visit each other and celebrate the New Year, which will lasts 3 to 5 days. During the festival, people will play Guozhang or Guoxie dance at the squares or open grasslands with the accompaniment of guitars, cymbals, gongs and other musical instruments. Hand in hand, arm in arm, Tibetans dance in a circle while singing following the rhythm by stamping their feet. Children, on the other hand, will fire firecrackers. A happy, harmony and auspicious festival atmosphere will pervade the whole area.

Ox festival

It derives from Tibetans' awareness of the importance of ox in agriculture. During their daily labor, they gradually produced strong feeling to ox, and consequently, numerous phenomena of ox culture came into being. Ox was regarded as god and became the best sacrifice for divinities. Then, the Ox Festival finally emerged. It starts from the 15th day of the 8th month in Tibetan year and usually lasts more than 10 days or even one month sometimes, with generally more than 1,000 people. During this process, people will ask "heiba"(wizard) to recite scriptures, play yak horn and kill tens of yaks or over 100 sheep, drinking freely and talking noisily. Because of the high expenses, this large-sized fair was held only once in almost one century.

Moreover, members who take part in Ox Festival share the same blood relationship. So, it is placed among the cultural festivals of ancestors worship.

Great Prayer Festival

It falls on the fourth up to the eleventh day of the first Tibetan month. It is the grandest religious festival in Tibet. Monks of Dreprang Monastery, Sera Monastery and Gaden Monastery will assemble in Jokhang Monastery on the occasion. It dates back to 1049 when Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelu sect, held a praying ceremony in Lhasa. Examinations taking form of sutra debates for the Geshe degree, the highest degree in Buddhist theology, were also held. Pilgrims from other places in Tibet crowded to listen to the sermons while others give religious donations. After that, it is continuously enlarged and enriched, becoming a fixed and popular religious festival and lasting until today, with a larger size than is was set up.

Butter Lamp Festival

The grand festival falls on the 15th day of the first Tibetan month, the last day of Great Prayer Festival. In the daytime, people will go to monasteries to worship Buddhas and pray. At night, a lamp festival will be held on the Barkhor Street, where there will be lots of shelves filled with colorful and various images such as gods, figures, birds, animals, flowers and trees. Meanwhile, you can also enjoy the puppet show. Thousands of lamps just like the shining stars falling from the sky, which takes on a splendid look.

Saka Dawa Festival

The 15th day of the fourth month in the Tibetan calendar is a day when Sakyamuni was born, achieved nirvana and passed away. It is also a traditional festival for Tibetan people. April in Tibetan calendar is Buddha Month, so it is called "Saka Dawa" in Tibetan. On this day, in accordance with their conventions, Tibetans will dress themselves in their holiday best and assemble at the Dragon King Pool behind the magnificent Potala Palace to celebrate this grand religious festival. After long period of development, it gradually evolves into a mass festival for Tibetans to visit parks in spring and summer and pray for a good harvest in agriculture and animal husbandry. During this festival, some people set up colorful tents; some prepare barley wine and butter tea, families resting beside the pool with great joy. Then young Tibetans dance in a circle while singing following the rhythm by stamping their feet.

Bathing Festival

It falls in the first ten days of the 7th month in Tibetan calendar. As a conventional festival in Tibet, it has a long history of seven or eight hundred years at least. Because Tibetans believe July is the best time for bathing.Shoton Festival.

It is one of grand festivals in Tibet. "Shoton" means yoghurt in Tibetan. The origin of the festival started from the 17th century. According to the rule of Gelu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the 6th month in Tibetan calendar was the retreat period when monks and nuns of all monasteries were prohibited from going out to avoid stamping on or hurting little bugs. Then, on the 1st day of the 6th month in Tibetan year when the ban was lifted, they went down the hill one after another. And the peasants and herdsmen would serve yoghurt to them.

During the festival, Tibetans, no matter male or female, old or young, will pour into Norbulingka Summer Palace in knots, with colorful bags on back and barley wine barrels in hand. Some will set up tents, put carpet on the ground, and lay out barley wine, dishes and other holiday foods. Horseracing is a favorite activity for Tibetans. It not only provides a good place to assemble and exchange experience in agriculture and animal husbandry in spare time, but also shows the spirit of Tibetans. Consequently, horse racing has become an indispensable activity in almost all the Tibetan festivals that are handed down and spread among the people.

Other Travelers' Questions

The questions raised by our past customers can help you get a more clear picture about tours to Tibet, read them or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side, our specialists will reply you within 24 hours.

user portrait Mr. Anthony Chan from: 7 Days Lhasa to Kathmandu Tour via Everest Base Camp
Hello,

We are interested in the 7 day Lhasa to Kathmandu Group tour on Sep 22 2018 for 2 people we are interested in upgrading our hotels to 5 star in Lhasa and 4-5 stars in Shigatse if possible. I am also interested in renting a sleeping bag when near the EBC. We will also be on a train arriving from Xining. I am interested in a price quote and also how would we join to tour each day if we are sleeping away from the group. Thanks.

Cheers,
Anthony Chan
Answered by Helen

Dear Mr. Anthony Chan,

Greetings from Helen at Budget Tibet Tour and welcome you to join our 7-day Lhasa to Kathmandu group tour on 22nd of Sep. And we are glad to help you update your hotels in Lhasa and Shigatse. Although you won’t stay in the same hotel with our group members, our guide will pick you up from your hotel every morning. For the sleeping bag, you can rent one at Shigatse, after tour, our guide will take it back to Shigatse. Moreover, taking train from Xining to Lhasa will cost you about 21 hours (1 night) on the train, and we are happy to help you book train tickets. Please check your email and find more details. Best regards.

Email to Helen about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

user portrait Ms. cristina cardoso from: 10 Days Tibet Mt. Everest Base Camp plus Namtso Lake Group Tour
Gostava de visitar o Tibete, não só Lhasa e os mosteiros principais e outras cidades, mas também apreciar a beleza natural, como o Lago do Céu. Que excursão é que me sugere que abrange estas duas vertentes?
Vou sozinha e gostava de me juntar a outro grupo.
Chego de avião de Pequim e pretendo também sair por Lhasa de avião.
Estou a pensar chegar dia 22 ou 23 de julho.
Fico a aguardar uma resposta.
Obrigado
Answered by Helen

Dear Ms. cristina Cardoso,

Thanks very much for your inquiry. We currently have one departure date on 22nd July for the 10-day group tour, you are quite welcome to join us! Joining this 10-day tour, you can enjoy the major cities, monasteries and scenic spots in Tibet, which would be a wonderful journey. And flying from Beijing to Lhasa is a better choice, which will cost you about four and half hour. Have a nice day.

Email to Helen about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

user portrait Ms. Thanh Trinh from: Travel from Gyirong Port to Kathmandu
Hi there,
My group have 6 people want to go to Lhasa via Kathmandu by both flight and drive on July or August. We do want to do any tour in Kathmandu, Nepal. KTM is just a connecting place for us to apply Tibetan visa and permit. Based on that, how long would we should plan for this trip? Because I still have no idea how long for the drive from KTM to Lhasa.
Hope to hear back from you guys soon.
Thank you and best regards.
Answered by Helen

Dear Ms. Thanh Trinh,

Entering Tibet from Nepal, you need to apply for the Chinese group visa in Kathmandu. Firstly, we will apply for the visa invitation letter for you; Next we will send the visa invitation letter to you and our partner in Kathmandu; When you arrive in Kathmandu, you need to meet with our partner and give him your original passport, then he will assist you to apply for the Chinese group visa. Group visa application needs 3 or 4 working days, during that time, you can travel other places in Nepal with your passport copy.

The distance from Kathmandu to Gyirong Port is about 170km and it takes approximately 8-9 hours by car due to not good road condition. Please check your email and find more details. Have a nice day.

Email to Helen about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

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7 Days Lhasa to Kathmandu Tour via Everest Base Camp