Celebrating Losar at the State Department

Uzra Zeya speaking with several people (State Dept.)
Under Secretary of State Uzra Zeya, second from right, speaks with guests during the Losar celebration at the State Department in February. (State Dept.)

The State Department joined Tibetans in the U.S. and around the world in celebrating Losar, the Tibetan New Year, one of the most important holidays in the Tibetan calendar.

The department’s annual Losar celebration, which took place February 22 at the National Museum of American Diplomacy, featured traditional Tibetan foods, songs and decorations.

“Losar is also a time and opportunity to reflect on the successes and challenges of the year gone by, learn from the experiences, and aspire to do our best for the year ahead,” said Namgyal Choedup, the North American representative of the Central Tibetan Administration and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

He thanked the United States for its ongoing work on behalf of the Tibetan people.

Table with Tibetan food and decorations (State Dept.)
An arrangement at the State Department’s Losar celebration February 22 (State Dept.)

U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Uzra Zeya welcomed guests with the traditional Tibetan greeting of “Losar Tashi Delek,” meaning “good luck and happiness” for the new year, and reaffirmed U.S. support for protecting the cultural, linguistic and religious identity of Tibetans.

The Year of the Water Hare began February 21, the first day of the Tibetan calendar. Losar celebrations last for 15 days.

Tibetans celebrate Losar by cleaning and decorating their homes, making offerings to deities and hosting gatherings. It is a time for forgiveness, family reunions, and wishing good luck and prosperity for the new year.

This was the first in-person State Department Losar celebration after two years of virtual celebrations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was attended by State Department and White House officials, representatives from 15 embassies, congressional staff and members of the local Tibetan diaspora.

At the event, guests enjoyed traditional Tibetan foods such as momos (Tibetan dumplings) and khapse (deep fried dough). The event also featured a traditional Tibetan prayer altar, known as a Losar Derkha, where families make offerings and seek blessings for the new year.

In prerecorded remarks, Secretary of State Antony Blinken wished Tibetans a happy new year and reaffirmed the United States’ support for Tibetan culture and human rights.

Tibetan singers Tenzin Choenyi and Tsekyi Tsultrim performed traditional songs, including one wishing a long, healthy life to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and a lighter melody in the Tibetan Nangma Toeshey style that goes back to the 16th century.

The United States is home to the largest Tibetan diaspora population outside of India, with approximately 26,000 people of Tibetan heritage. The majority of Tibetans living in the United States live in Minnesota, California or the New York/New Jersey metropolitan areas, according to a study of the Tibetan diaspora published by the Central Tibetan Administration.

“What gives me hope is the resilience, the perseverance, and the faith of the Tibetan community, both inside the [People’s Republic of China] and among the diaspora,” Zeya said. “This perseverance is mirrored in the United States, where our resolve to advance the human rights and dignity of all Tibetans, as well as preserve their distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic identity, is unwavering.”