By: Song Shuhong, Tibet from all Angles
Updated: June 12, 2018

Tibetans have many festivals. According to the Tibetan calendar, there are more than a hundred festivals, large or small, throughout the year. The forms and contents of the festivals are rich and colorful, including worship, farming, commemoration, celebration, social contact and recreation, etc.


Tibetans have so many festivals for the reasons as follows:


First, natural conditions. Tibet is a “snow-capped plateau” with the highest elevation in the world. Harsh natural conditions can threaten the survival of human beings at any time, and this was even more prominent in ancient times. To survive, Tibetans had to pray to the nature that is thought to decide their fate. This kind of primitive worship was expressed through festivals. Tibetan festivals still contain the worship of gods in charge of different aspects.  


Second, population. In history, Tibet’s population remained small because of the harsh natural environments. Meanwhile, the vast territory makes the population seem even scarcer.   Therefore, people desire exchanges with outsiders very much. Having experienced the joy of meeting a person after a long journey of thousands of miles on the snowy plateau, you will fully understand why Tibetans like celebrating festivals so much. Thus festivals came into being to satisfy people’s desires to gather and share feelings.  


Third, ways of production and life. Careful analysis shows that festivals in the Tibetan pastoral areas have distinct features of animal husbandry. Such festivals include the Horse Race Festival and the Mowing Festival. The festivals in the agricultural areas such as the Ongkor (Bumper Harvest) Festival obviously have agricultural characteristics. These festivals came into being under the influence of production and living means over a long time. Meanwhile, Tibetan underdeveloped commodity economy meant it could not fully achieve self-sufficiency for a long time. Through festivals, people not only shared ideas and feelings, but also exchanged the fruits of their labor, so as to maintain the reproduction. 


Fourth, religion. Tibetan Buddhism became widespread in the region partly because of festivals.   Through them, the distance between people and religion was narrowed, and people's understanding was deepened.  


Many festivals realized unity and harmony between religious and secular life.  


Simple, bold and unconstrained Tibetans express their feelings through many festivals, including religious feelings towards the gods, and also natural feelings between humans.