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Lomba

The New Year, commonly known as Lomba, is a significant celebration in the western regions of Paro and Haa in Bhutan. While the exact origins of Lomba are unclear, it is thought to have begun either with the human settlement of the area or with the arrival of Phajo Drugom Zhikpo in the 13th century. Despite the lack of documented history, Lomba has long been a traditional custom in these regions.


Lomba typically takes place in late autumn, after the crops have been harvested and before the start of the next farming season.


According to the Bhutanese calendar, it occurs on the 29th day of the ninth lunar month and lasts for a minimum of five days in Paro, and often extends until the 15th day of the tenth month in Haa.


Lomba marks the end of the previous year and the beginning of the new one, and is a time for families to come together and celebrate the start of a prosperous year.


For young people, Lomba provides a festive social setting. Where they spend time with community and their families. Visiting the village temple, making merits, gathering for the rituals, going for picnics, and playing archery tournaments.



On the evening of the 29th day of the lunar month, children go from house to house in the village, singing "Lolay, Lolay" and carrying a long stick with a basket attached to one end. When the homeowners come out and put hontey (a local type of dumpling), rice, grains or dried meat in the basket, the children sing a rhyme called lo ley, which expresses the desire for a happy new year.


Hontey is a special food that is an integral part of Lomba celebrations in Haa. It is made by combining dry turnip leaves, amaranth seeds (zimtsi), and chili and wrapping the mixture in a steamed dumpling made of buckwheat flour dough, similar to a momo. In Haa, buckwheat and wheat are the main crops, as the area is too high and too cold for rice to grow.



Traditionally, hontey was offered to nobles as a sign of respect and goodwill.


In Paro, rice and meat are the staple foods, and Lomba celebrations often include a variety of meats such as beef, pork, chicken, and sometimes yak. A special dish called Jomja, made of rice with a butter sauce, is also a must-have during Lomba celebrations in Paro.


During Lomba, residents of Paro and Haa perform a short ceremony at home to ward off evil and bring health, happiness, and wealth in the coming year. In some communities, offerings are made to the deities, as it is believed that if the sacrifices are not performed correctly, the deities may become angry and bring harm to the people. The offering therefore has significant spiritual significance.


In both Paro and Haa, people also traditionally consider themselves to be a year older after Lomba.


As the villages and people in Paro and Haa become more modernized, certain aspects of Lomba celebrations are being left behind. Despite these changes, Lomba remains a significant and long-standing custom in these regions.

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