The way Tibetan New Year or Gyalpo Lhosar is celebrated may differ slightly by the different sects of Sherpas, but the traditional foods are all the same.
Gyalpo Lhosar is a festival celebrated by the Sherpa people of Nepal, Sikkim, and Darjeeling. Every year, the festival is held from the second day of the waxing moon, until the full moon. Gyalpo Lhosar is also known as the Tibetan New Year.
Gyalpo Lhosar is observed for two weeks. The main festivities take place over the first three days. On the first day, a traditional beverage known as Changkol, which is equivalent to Chhaang, is consumed. Gyalpo Lhosar is observed on the second day, which marks the beginning of the New Year. On the third day, everyone gathers for a feast.
On Lhosar Eve, families set their Lhosar shrines, which include a prominent bo, a painted container containing chemar (it is made of tsampa which is roasted barley flour), butter, and sugar. The chemar is not intended for consumption. You take a pinch and offer it with three waves of your hands as you enter your home, saying, “Tashi delek posumtsok. Ama badro kunkham sang. Tendu dewa thobar sho. Dusang tukyi tatsoe yanggar zomgyu gongwa sho.” This means: Blessings and good luck with a pure mind, heart, and body. Wishing for the good health of mothers. May all beings become enlightened. May we all be here next year and celebrate together.
During the festival, traditional dishes are served. Some of the delicacies that are consumed during the festival are given below:
Everyone in a Sherpa family gathers to celebrate Guthuk two days before Lhosar. Guthuk is a noodle soup made with nine different types of beans and meat, wheat, rice, sweet potato, cheese, peas, green pepper, vermicelli noodles, and radish.
The soup is accompanied by dumplings that contain various hidden objects that are used in place of fillings. The hidden items are frequently unusual, such as wood, salt, a small piece of paper or even coal, and are jokingly meant to relate to the personality of the person by whom they are chosen.
Khapsay, a deep-fried dough commonly eaten during the holiday season, represents the start of the holiday season. The bhungue amcho is probably the most well-known khapsay (Donkey Ears). The Khapsay is made with plain dough that has been flavored with salt, sugar, butter, and milk before being deep-fried in mustard oil.
Though the Tibetan people still bake the dish on a daily basis. They use the centuries-old method of earth baking for special occasions such as Lhosar. A loaf of bread may have a hundred-year-old fermentation. It is the way it was baked before active dry yeast was invented.
As the first dish on the first day of Lhosar, Changkol is a very famous beverage that Tibetans prefer. Changkol, also known as koenden, is a pretty exotic dish from a western perspective, and may not be the most appetizing-looking dish, but whoever tries it will definitely enjoy it. This dish is prepared by adding chhaang, khapsay, butter and sugar.
Enjoy the dishes that Sherpas make in the Gyalpo Lhosar. Happy New Year, Tashi Delek!
Compiled By: Nikita Gautam
Photo Credit: YoWangdu: Experience Tibet