Woman holding ornamental object (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)
Tibetan Americans greet guests with a traditional ornamental divided box filled with roasted wheat and barley. Losar offerings also include rice wine. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

Tibetans around the world celebrate Losar, the new year, which for Tibetans begins on February 5 and is one of the most important holidays on their calendar.

On February 8, senior U.S. Department of State officials came together to host a Losar celebration.

Ngodup Tsering, representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to North America, welcomed the new year at the event along with Tibetan-Americans, civil society groups, local diplomats and staff members of the U.S. Congress.

“We say ‘tashi delek’ to each other during Losar,” said Tsering, meaning “may good be with you forever.”

People standing and listening to man at lectern (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)
Ngodup Tsering speaks to guests at the Losar celebration. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

According to Tsering, it is traditional to pray and to meet with and get blessings from Tibetan lamas on the first day of Losar. On the second day, families greet the head of the town or village. And on the third day, there is a public celebration with Tibetan food, drink and dancing.

At the State Department celebration, Patrick Murphy, a senior official in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said, “We want to wish you and your families, your communities and everyone a peaceful and prosperous new year.”

“Losar Tashi Delek!” (Happy New Year!) he exclaimed.

Two women dancing in front of crowd (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)
Performers use a “khata,” or greeting scarf, symbolizing good wishes and pure heart. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

Senior department official Alice Wells pointed to deeply held values common to the American and Himalayan traditions. “Tolerance, compassion, openness to new ideas and a curiosity about the world — these are traits that have brought our peoples together over the decades and continue to do so today,” she said.


Preserving Tibetan Identity

International efforts to preserve Tibet’s cultural heritage have never been more important.

Despite guarantees of cultural and linguistic rights, China puts numerous restrictions on the rights of Tibetans to safeguard their heritage.

Tibetan students have limited access to officially approved Tibetan language instruction and textbooks, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2017 Human Rights Report.

Further, China’s nationwide “centralized education” policy results in “diminished acquisition of the Tibetan language and culture by removing Tibetan children from their homes and communities,” the report says.

As Article 4 of the Chinese Constitution says, “All nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages, and to preserve or reform their own ways and customs.”

“The United States government is committed to supporting the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct cultural, religious and linguistic identity,” said Patrick Murphy, a senior official in the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.