• Culture & Tradition
  • 05 January, 2024

The Eight Most Widely Rejoiced New Years of Nepal

The Eight Most Widely Rejoiced New Years of Nepal
Women bathe in the river and worship during Maghi. Image credit - Royal Mountain Travel

All across the globe and its many cultures, people have been keeping track of Earth’s revolutions around the Sun, and have celebrated each in their own time and manner. Besides, for the sake of timekeeping, the New Year is a celebration of life, renewal, and hope. With many people taking up New Year as an occasion to hit the reset button, find new resolutions, and turn into the people they have always envisioned themselves to be, the people of Nepal are lucky enough to have eight such occasions within 365 days!

In Nepal, where the culture of others is respected as much as your own, one year whispers its farewell, and another steps into the limelight, time after time, as each of the many people celebrate their New Year. And if you are not celebrating yourself, then, you are surely reveling in the beauty and joy of others, as the custodians of their ancient rites come alive as they celebrate the passage of time.

While the many faces of Nepal may be hiding other celebrations of time, here are the eight most widely rejoiced New Year of Nepal, beginning with the all too familiar, Gregorian New Year.

Gregorian New Year – 1 January 2024

As the Western world celebrates the passage of one year to the other, the people of Nepal are happy to take up an occasion like any other to get together and have fun. While celebrating the Gregorian New Year is not embedded in the Nepali culture, a new phenomenon amongst the youth and expat community has emerged in the last few decades. Kathmandu and Pokhara take the center stage as street parties and live music take place. The touristic center of Kathmandu, Thamel, offers a wide range of entertainment, from mellow events to trance and techno parties. The same can be said for Pokhara Lakeside. Like anywhere else, this New Year in Nepal is also filled with hope and resolution.

Maghi – 15 January 2024

In January’s chill, Nepal welcomes the Maghe Sankranti festival as this part of the earth spins towards warmer days. Maghe Sankranti emerges as a transitional phase—Tharu farmers complete their fieldwork, the harsh cold becomes more gentle under a warming Sun, and festivities blossom both in the flatlands and the mountains. Hindu devotees gather by holy rivers, sharing feasts laden with yams, sweet potatoes, Khichadi (a soupy rice and lentils dish), and Chaku (concentrated sugarcane juice, jaggery, ghee, and nuts), nourishing not just the body but also the bonds of family and community.

Families gather on the first day of the month of Magh, celebrating a New Year that brings forth a new season. The celebration isn’t confined to a single region, it reverberates within several ethnic groups across the nation as an ode to the Sun god and the timeless wisdom he embodies. As an interesting side note, the Newars of Kathmandu don’t mark this day as their New Year, but they still celebrate and eat the celebratory dishes. They call this day Gheu Chaku Sallhu, and the special food can be found in Kathmandu too.

The Eight Most Widely Rejoiced New Years of Nepal
Preparation of chaku for the occasion of Maghi. Image credit – Royal Mountain Travel

Maghi for Tharu People

Beneath the broad umbrella of Maghe Sankranti, a smaller tale unfolds as the Tharu community celebrates Maghi for an entire week. Clad in their traditional attire, they revel in the fruits of their labour in a harvest festival dancing to the rhythms that echo those of their toiling in the fields. The Tharus of Nuwakot celebrate like no other – a bullfighting festival, a wild manifestation of primal force, a celebration that all across Nepal, is unique to them.

Maghi For Magar and Kirant People

Magar people follow the Naagchi Sambat calendar. From the heart of Kathmandu to the farthest reaches of Nepal, vibrant gatherings of Magar people bring to life their culture with a contagious type of pride. Married daughters and their families are not mere guests; they are revered participants, the focal point of worship and joyous activities. The air is saturated with the aromatic symphony of yams, sweet potatoes, selroti, and til laddus.

The Kirant community—comprising Rai, Limbu, and Sunuwar—defines Maghe Sankranti as the inaugural day of the Yele Sambat calendar. The Rai community often refers to this day as Yele Dong. 

As the Kirant people bid farewell to Ubhauli (celebration of the beginning of the farming season, and Udhauli (celebration to thank Mother Nature for a good harvest during the farming season) and embrace), the rhythm of their downward migration commences, a collective response to the impending harshness of winter. Amidst it, the ban tarul, a yam species intertwined with their sacred Mundhum scripture, steps into the limelight. In a ritual echoing historical resilience, a tika crafted from ban tarul adorns foreheads, a tangible connection to a past where this humble yam sustained them through scarcity. Cloaked in the regalia of their heritage, the Kirant people dance to their ancient melody, indulging in a feast that serves as a testament to the endurance and continuity of their community. 

Sonam Lhosar – 10 February 2024

The Eight Most Widely Rejoiced New Years of Nepal
Youth dressed in cultural clothes in Boudhanath during Sonam Lhosar.
Image credit – Royal Mountain Travel

As the second new moon graces the winter sky, a quiet revolution unfolds in the Tamang calendar, honouring a new chapter in their life – Sonam Lhosar. 

The Tamang people acknowledge the interconnectedness of all elements of life as they trace the steps of the Damphu dance, and the Selo, a melody that has been passed on through the generations, carries on the echo of their ancestors’ voices. The Tamang community, scattered across the world, gathers in collective homage to their gods, uniting in the mesmerising swirl of their dance, as it mimics the undulating hills that cradle their homes.

Gyalpo Lhosar – 11 March 2024

Gyalpo Losar, the Sherpa New Year, draws its essence from Lo, the heartbeat of the year, and Sar, the tender sigh of the new. Through the winding valleys of Nepal and Tibet, Lhosar resonates a symphony of tradition echoing through the ages.

The fragrance of khapse, a deep-fried pastry, heralds in Gyalpo Losar. Two days prior to the main day of celebration, families unite around bowls of gutung, a soup of nine different beans. Then, they indulge in their traditional dumplings, with a playful twist in them, as they hide treasures such as wood, salt, or even coal, each a reflection of the spirits they choose. During the Eve of Lhosar, Sherpa people paint homes anew, a canvas cleansed and adorned, while the stroke of midnight unveils their greeting Tashi Delek.  With the dawn, homes breathe anew—the changing of dhoja, prayer flags fluttering like whispers of hope. At the heart of the celebration, Changkol flows—a libation crafted from the essence of chaang, a Tibetan beer. Amidst laughter and the strains of ancestral songs, the Sherpa sway to the rhythm of a new beginning. 

The Eight Most Widely Rejoiced New Years of Nepal
Tibetan women in the splendour of their traditional attire.
Image source – Royal Mountain Travel

Nepali New Year (Bikram Sambat) – 13 April 2024

The arrival of Navavarsha, the Nepali New Year occurs as the first rays of the April sun gently touch the terraced fields of the Nepali hills. Families and friends come together, their laughter a melody in the foothills of the Himalayas. Picnics sprawl beneath blossoming trees and the air is filled with the aroma of shared meals. In the quiet morning hours, like pilgrims on a timeless journey, the people of Nepal embark on a sacred pilgrimage to temples.

Yet, the heartbeat of Navavarsha is not confined to sacred spaces alone. In the heart of Bhaktapur, Bisket Jatra, the Festival of Bisket, paints the town square with vibrant colours. A silent wooden sentinel rises, a sentinel to ancient battles, while deities stand sentinel on chariots, accepting offerings that carry the weight of tradition and a touch of solemnity. The streets become a stage for a tug-of-war, a dance of strength and unity, where the winner, it is said, is destined for a year of wonders.

The Eight Most Widely Rejoiced New Years of Nepal
Bisket Jatra in Bhaktapur. Image source – Royal Mountain Travel

Al Hijri – 6-7 July 2024

The Islamic New Year, also known as the Hijra (or, Al Hijri), speaks of the tale of the Muslims of Nepal, a small but prominent community that is predominantly present in the Terai region, but also exists in the rest of Nepal. A little-known fact is that the Muslims of the Kathmandu valley, who are among the oldest groups to have settled in Nepal, have, through the centuries, assimilated with the indigenous Newari people, all the while retaining their religion. With the majority of Nepali Muslims being Sunni, Al Hijri, together with their family from the evening of the 6th of July to the morning of the 7th of July.

Nhu Dan (Nepal Sambat) – 2 November 2024

The Newa community ushers in a sacred moment known as Nhu Dan. This celebration of a new year is rooted in the lunar Nepal Sambat calendar. In the heart of this cultural celebration lies Mha Puja, a celebration where the self becomes the altar, and offerings are made to one’s existence. 

Centuries ago, the visionary Shankhadhar Sakhwa, under the Lichhavi dynasty’s reign, birthed Nepal Sambat, freeing the oppressed from the shackles of debt. Mha Puja stands as a tribute to self-respect on the Newari New Year. So, on the fourth day of Tihar, as the Newa people don their ancestral attire, they set on a spirited rally through the cobbled streets, celebrating the genesis of a cultural cosmos, reminiscing the great day of October 20, 879 AD when Shankhadhar Sakhwa did what he did. 

In New Year celebrations etched across Nepal, where the ancient converges with the contemporary, we embark not only on the journey of a changing year but on a deeper odyssey—one of self-discovery and communal rejuvenation. Roaming through the terrains of Nhu Dan, the vibrant revelries of Tamu Lhosar, and the resonances of Bikram Sambat, we witness the resilience of a nation rooted in traditions cultivated over centuries.

Tamu Lhosar – 31 December 2024

On the 15th of Poush, the Gurungs emerge draped in the hues of tradition. Tamu Lhosar is a celebration draped in the colours of shamanistic rituals and the gentle cadence of Buddhism. In the moonlit nights and the promise of warmer days, Tamu Lhosar, like many other New Year celebrations, is about hope and renewal.

The forthcoming year, 2024 A.D., unfurls its wings as the year of the Garud, gracefully directing in change and bidding a fond farewell to the feline glory of the departing year.  In embracing modernity, the heartbeat of Tamu Lhosar resounds in the gatherings of families, in the incense-lit corridors of monasteries, and in the flutter of colourful prayer flags that ward off the shadows of days gone by. Each 15th of Poush is not just a turning of a calendar page but a testament to the enduring connection with tradition and the perennial dance of the New Year. As the Gurungs step into the gentle glow of a new beginning, their story becomes intertwined with the very fabric of time, a tale whispered by the winds that have witnessed centuries unfold.

L.M. Montgomery once said, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” This sentiment encapsulates the very heart of each New Year celebration in Nepal. Beyond the festive veneer and cultural splendour, lies an intimate invitation to celebrate the boundless potential of a pristine tomorrow, unburdened by the shadows of yesteryears. All in all, as the echoes of New Year celebrations linger in the mountain air and echo through the valleys, let us carry forward the enduring lessons of resilience, unity, and steadfast belief in the beauty of fresh beginnings. 

  • Leave a reply

  • Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *