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Celebrating renewal

New Years Eve in Bhutan

While we in the UK observe New Year’s Eve on 31st December with little more ceremony than a prossecco-fuelled rendition of Auld Lang Syne at midnight, in our three destinations they do things quite differently. Here, in the first of three posts exploring the festivities in Mongolia, Bhutan and Burma, is how they celebrate New Year’s Eve in the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

The festival of Losar, the New Year, begins somewhere between February and March depending on the lunar calendar. Different regions of Bhutan observe Losar at slightly different times with some local festivities lasting up to two weeks.

Traditionally, Losar is a time when communities come together and food plays a central role in the celebrations:

"The food eaten during Losar and its preparation, presentation, consumption, and symbolic meaning are highly important traditional rituals that serve to reinforce community ties and Bhutanese identity and culture."

(James Mayer, Losar: Community Building and the Bhutanese New Year)

The origins of the modern festival can be traced to 1637 and the building of the Punakha Dzong by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651). People came from all over Bhutan to celebrate its completion and brought offerings of their local food – a tradition which has continued down the centuries at Losar with a variety of different dishes still eaten today.

"Food such as fried biscuits (tshos); mandarins; diced sugar cane; fermented rice (changkoi); various stews, porridges, and cheeses; different teas and special sweets (shudre) are all traditionally consumed. Sugar cane and green bananas are considered auspicious foods, the presence of which helps to ensure the New Year will be a good one."

(James Mayer, Losar: Community Building and the Bhutanese New Year)

As well as being a time when people indulge in ritual feasting and drinking, New Year’s Eve in Bhutan is also marked by families coming together, dancing, singing and games – particularly the national sport of archery. Homes are deep cleaned and old or unused objects discarded, to make way for the new. Offerings are made at holy shrines and temples for an auspicious year ahead and revellers greet each other with tashi delek, a traditional phrase that wishes the listener bountiful blessings and good luck.


Read more about Bhutan's Festivals - all of which can be incorporated into your journey.

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Whether it's to ask a quick question or to start planning the journey of a lifetime, we'd love to hear from you.

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