Celebrating the Lunar New Year

ch-2-1Many Buddhist Asian cultures celebrate the Lunar New Year around the same time. Whether you’re celebrating Vietnamese New Year (Tet), Chinese New Year, or Tibetan New Year (Losar), this is a fun time for some simple family celebrations, no matter what the age of your children.

The beginning of the new lunar year is a great time to hang new prayer flags (you can find some nice, inexpensive ones here and help a good cause at the same time).

most prayer flags come in these five colors

Hang the flags outside somewhere where the wind will blow and spread their aspirations to the world. Everyone in the family can help to make sure that the prayer flags never touch the ground. Disposing of old prayer flags is tricky to do respectfully; you are supposed to burn them, but that can be difficult if you live in an urbanized area. Instead, you can choose to hang the new ones next to or in front of the old flags, allowing the old ones to remain, decomposing over time due to the natural process of exposure to the elements. You might say mantras while hanging the prayer flags and can end by dedicating the merit from your actions for the benefit of all sentient beings.

the prayer flags blow in the wind and send their auspicious wishes out to all sentient beings

After the prayer flags are up, it’s a great time to take a walk – not a brisk walk for exercise, but a mindful walk to greet the new year. Take time to observe the signs of old life decomposing to allow new life to begin. The Lunar New Year usually falls in February or March, which means that the weather in Maryland where we live can be anything from balmy to brisk to bitterly cold. No matter what the weather is like, there will be plenty to feel gratitude for – whether it’s sun on a wind-chapped face, the sight of a bird foraging for food, or simply the joy in turning one’s steps back to a warm home!

some drawings from the Year of the Male Earth Mouse
some drawings from the Year of the Male Earth Mouse

One family activity that we’ve enjoyed for many years around Losar is the making of Losar pictures. Usually we do this on the weekend closest to the beginning of Tibetan New Year. Gather everyone around a table on which you’ve placed art supplies. At a minimum, try to have colored pencils and paper, but feel free to accessorize with everything from paints and colored paper to glue and scissors – whatever your family uses to be creative. The point is not to assemble the biggest collection of art supplies, however, but to inspire you all to make a wonderful Losar-themed picture that represents the animal, element, and gender of the new Tibetan year. 2013 is the year of the Female Water Snake, 2014 the year of the Male Wood Horse, 2015 the year of the Female Wood Sheep. You can read more about the cycle here. We’ve had some wonderfully creative pictures over the years.

Do you have particular ideas for celebrating the Lunar New Year? Share them by posting in the comment section below.

Tashi Dalek!

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