Marking their new year, the Sherpa community celebrates Gyalpo Lhosar today
Among the most important festivals celebrated by the Sherpa community, Gyalpo Lhosar marks the beginning of a new year and usually falls in late February. The terms ‘Lho’ and ‘sar’ means year and a new or fresh start.
In ancient times, rituals took place for an entire month leading up to New Year’s Day. But today’s Lhosar celebrations typically last only two weeks and revolve around food, family and festivities. Preparation of Lhosar begins by making a special Sherpa snack – Khapse.
Two days before the big day, everyone in the family gathers and they enjoy a special soup called Gutung. Prepared with a combination of nine different kinds of beans; tradition states that each member in the family should have nine bowls of this soup.
The day before Lhosar, families gather to clean and decorate their homes. That same evening, once the clock strikes midnight, the traditional greeting, ‘Tashi Delek’ is exchanged and friends and family stay up late to welcome each other to the new year.
The following morning many Sherpas change the Dhoja, or prayer flags, in their homes, symbolising a fresh start to the year. The celebrations continue with the drinking of a special beverage called Changkol made from Chaang (a Sherpa version of beer). People celebrate by singing traditional songs and dancing to it, eating and drinking throughout the day. By evening celebrations wind down, dinner with family and loved ones mark the beginning of the New Year.