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Celebrating the Losar: Guide to the Bhutanese Lunar New Year

Bhutan's Losar New Year is here, and the country is ready to celebrate the start of the Year of the Water Rabbit. The festival, which ran from February 21st to 22nd, 2023, is one of the most important holidays in Bhutan and offers a great opportunity for tourists to experience the country's culture, tradition, and outdoor activities.

Cultural performers entertain a group of tourists during Nyi shu gu. Image: dailybhutan

The Losar New Year begins with the Losar New Year Eve, "Nyi Shu Gu", and lasts for two weeks. However, the first three days of the New Year are the biggest celebrations. During this time, Bhutanese people prepare for the upcoming year by cleaning their homes, cooking special dishes, making offerings at temples, and dancing and singing. Temples and monasteries are sumptuously decorated, and special rituals called "choku" are performed at the monasteries on this occasion.

One of the most unique traditions during Losar is the custom of partaking in archery competitions. Men from across the country try to hit targets from varying distances up to 100 meters, while women dance and cheer for the competitors. Every village in Bhutan arranges archery competitions for the New Year festivities.

Food is also an important aspect of Losar celebrations. Visitors can try a variety of national dishes, ranging from red rice, stews, and chili peppers to sweet menu items such as fried biscuits, diced sugar cane, and fruit. In the locals' belief, sugarcane and green bananas must be presented on this occasion as they bring goodness for the upcoming year.

Offering biscuits to the guests during Losar. Image: gobhutantours

Losar is also a great time to watch families enjoy outdoor activities such as going on a picnic together. The festivals are held throughout the country and are saturated with feasting, dancing, and singing. Darts and archery are also played in the Losar New Year, with archery being known as the Bhutanese national sport. You can hear people saying "Tashi Delek" to each other during this special event, which is a greeting and a wish for a lucky and prosperous new year.

Image: tripsatasia

Once traveling to Bhutan on this special occasion, do not miss a chance to get into some of the following vibrant and interesting activities with the adorable Bhutanese dwellers:

The dough balls with special things inside are really something that you have to try as these special things will present the receiver’s character traits but do not be unpleasant if you find something weird inside, it is just a joke for a better next year. A chili pepper inside, for instance, means that you are talkative while something white such as salt or rice inside refers that you are a kind-hearted person. However, if you receive black coal inside, it means that your heart is hopeless with a black hole.

Guthuk, a noodle dish made of nine different components consisting of grains and a kind of dried cheese, fried biscuits, sugar crane meat, green bananas, fermented rice, mandarin oranges, a plethora of teas, and “shudre”, a delicious sweet, is some of other dishes that you have to try in the Losar festival.

In conclusion, Bhutan's Losar New Year is a time to celebrate new beginnings, family reunions and strengthen cultural ties. Visitors can experience the unique customs and traditions of Bhutan, indulge in delicious food, and enjoy outdoor activities. The festival is a great opportunity to learn more about Bhutanese culture and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Which traditional Losar activity are you most excited to try?

  • Eating dough balls with special things inside

  • Participating in archery competitions

  • Trying the traditional noodle dish, Guthuk

  • Going on a picnic with families

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