The above picture was taken about 30 minutes before midnight on “Chinese New Year’s Eve” – Though 2011’s display was about 60% of what 2010’s was – it was still impressive.  The image was exposed for about 25 seconds… that’s a lot of fireworks in 25 seconds.

First – I need to apologize for the lack of posts in the last 60 days.  In the last 60 days I’ve been home maybe 25 days.  I’ve broken a toe, contracted “Walking pneumonia”, almost overdosed on tylenol, called the California Poison control center, spent 3 weeks on the east coast working, drove across the Tibetan plateau, visited 7 provinces, travelled probably a billion kilometers by every known mode of transportation, renewed my visa, visited Hong Kong, and travelled with 250 million other Chinese citizens in order to get back home.  It’s been maybe the most stressful 60 days of my life – but I’m alive!

New Year’s Celebrations

I live in a multi-cultural city composed mostly of Han Chinese, Tibetans, and muslims.  The Chinese celebrate Chinese New Year but the Tibetans celebrate Losar.  The Muslims don’t celebrate at all – they just sell professional grade fireworks to anyone and everyone with money to pay for it. (Think 8 year old boys running around with mortar tubes).  Nonetheless, when you have these kinds of cultures all living side by side, a variety of different celebrations come with it.

This year was my 3rd time to celebrate Losar while in Western China.  Losar marks on the Tibetan calendar the beginning of the new year and also a time of purification in Tibetan Buddhism.  During this time nomads flood the monasteries, major cities, and pilgrimage sites.  The monasteries are in full swing during this period with many special significant prayers and rituals being performed in hopes of future blessings.  The monasteries also get ready to host the thousands of pilgrims making the journey. This is considered to be one of the most holy times of the year.  Butter candles can be seen in most Tibetan household windows as a form of offering in hopes of blessings for the new year.

Though there are many traditional ways to celebrate Losar, what it boils down to is spending time with friends, family, and neighbors – drinking too much lots of butter tea, eating lots of yak meat, yogurt, and other traditional Tibetan dishes.  Neighbors will go around visiting homes and exchanging food as well as tsampa and tradional barley cakes that are often given as gifts during this time of year.  It’s not uncommon to visit 3-5 houses a day during Losar – all the while being force-fed mostly rancid yogurt, meat, and butter along the way.  Honestly, it can get pretty exhausting.

Traditional Losar meal

As you can see in the pictures and videos below, there are serious professional grade fireworks going off right outside our apartment window as well as 2 million people all setting off fireworks on New Year’s eve.  If anyone ever comes to China – being here during Chinese New Year and Losar are definitely a treat (just don’t forget about the 250 million people travelling the week before!)

Although there are some serious cultural differences in the way the new year is brought in, fireworks seem to always be a common theme.

2010 New Year’s Fireworks

2011 New Year’s Fireworks

2011 New Year’s Fireworks from our apartment

2011 New Year’s Fireworks: Not the smartest thing I’ve ever seen