Not to be confused with loser, Losar is a celebration of the Tibetan New Year. I had no idea what this was but was very fortunate to find myself at a Buddhist Monastery in Nepal for this occasion. I cannot tell you accurately the history of Losar, or any factual significance of the different traditions, I can only relay my experience. And this was one of the best experiences of my life.
Leading up to Losar all I could hear about was what a wonderful party it was. I understood that there would be special celebrations and ceremonies during the day and that it is a huge party that lasts three days. Partying with monks? Sign me up.
During the day, the children played games and I was invited to a very ‘special’ room where the grown ups ate cake and there were bowls of nuts and crackers everywhere.
Listen. Cake is a huge treat when all you eat is rice and vegetables, so I don’t mean to sound ungrateful (because I think I ate three pieces), but I was still a little curious if this was the big party everyone was talking about? After cake we sat in silence with some official monks visiting from another monastery. I couldn’t help but giggle when photographs were taken to remember this moment. Was this the party?
Dinner came and I was just as excited as the children to see momos being served. Momos, beyond just sounding awesome (pronounced ‘mow-mow’), are delicious dumplings popular in the Himalayan region. These were such a treat – even better than cake. This was a party in my mouth!
After dinner it didn’t really seem like anything else was happening. I told myself that I needed to break away from what my definition of a ‘party’ was and accept that while this wasn’t as eventful as I had expected, to a Buddhist monk, especially a child in training, this was a huge deal. You should see how excited they got when they received an orange for dessert. I tell this to any child I see in the U.S. complaining because they want ice-cream for dessert – ‘quit your whining you brat-you should learn to be grateful for an orange!’. So with the festivities dying down, I went back to my room and was asleep as usual by 9pm.
Fast forward to 11pm. So, 11pm in ‘Buddhist Monastery time’ is basically like 2am for everyone else, it’s really, really, late. There was a knock at my door and when I opened it I could hear the faint sound of music. I was guided to the ‘special’ room from earlier only to find disco lights spinning and dancing like I had never seen. Literally, have you ever seen a monk dance? Now apparently dancing is kind of a “no-no” but the elder monks turn a blind eye and go to bed knowing this goes on as a special occasion. The younger teachers and students busted out some dance moves that blew me away. Its as if they had those few nights of the celebration to get all of their dancing out for the whole year. It turns out they learned to dance by watching YouTube videos of Indian dancers. And they mastered it. While I promised not to show any photographs of the monks dancing (you’ll have to go to your own Losar to see that), here are some pictures of some of my favorite monks in the wee hours of the night.
And incase you are wondering-it’s water in those cups. I can’t say there are many nights I have stayed up till 4am dancing without a drop of alcohol in my system, but I can say I never had so much fun. Losar is the best party…