Tibetan New Year’s “mascots”

Tibetan people are still talking about the auspicious phrase "Tashi Delek". During Losar (Tibetan New Year), there will many words of good luck, and furthermore more there will be many objects of good fortune.

Namgyal Wangdrak is the founder of “Tibetan Couplets”, before 2005, when Tibetan Couplets had yet not appeared on the market, for the purpose of fortune, many Tibetan families bought Chinese-style scrolls hung at the door, but they did not fully understand the implication of the couplets.

So, the Tibetan calligraphy expert Namgyal Wangdrak bought red paper and translated such texts into the Tibetan language on the text scrolls, he wrote them on the streets of Lhasa, and concurrently conducted sales. The move immediately gained welcome by the Tibetan people.

Namgyal Wangdrak said, following the Lunar New Year custom cultural influences, the Tibetan New Year culture also became enriched. In order to open the door and see an auspicious new year, for Tibetan families, Tibetan scrolls became essentially a kind of "mascot."

In addition to Tibetan scrolls, Tibetan families have a tradition of placing Chemar boxes, with a special wooden rectangular box that is empty, there are separated by intermediate plates, and are covered on both sides with roasted or fried barley grain, butter (from oil flowers) and so on. They symbolize longevity and good luck.

During Losar, when Tibetan families welcome guests, the owner will be holding the Qiema guests and with his right thumb and index finger will grab a pinch of tsampa from the box to throw into the air three times, showing respect for heaven and earth, and then they will proceed to put a pinch of tsampa into their own mouth.

With advances in technology and wood processing, the shape of Chemar boxes has been refined and they have also diversified. The Lhasa traders Dorje and his brother Tromzikhang have become a little bit famous for their own Chemar creations.

Dorjee said that they usually rely on the production of Tibetan furniture for a living, yet with Losar approaching, they switch gears and began to specialize in the production of Chemar boxes. For this, the elder brother coaches learning of Tibetan patterns seen in paintings and sculptures, he not only hopes that by this craft he can make a living, he also hopes through this to pass down the cultural heritage related to Losar.

The production process of butter sculpture is very complex, and furthermore ambient temperature requirements are very stringent.

Ngawang Danba learned how to make butter with his father for many years in Rinbung County of Shigatse, he said, he mixed mineral pigments of butter and that they will with heat melt together, therein in order to prevent the production with hands getting to hot, it is necessary to soak the hands in cool water while working to the point the workers hand turn red from getting so cold.

The butter sculptures are sold in pairs, and each pair will have eight auspicious symbols in it, which means blessings and good fortune.

During Losar, there are many unique "mascots", such as the "Losar Metok", farmers and herdsmen make with their first year’s harvest of barley, using fresh sprouted barley seedlings, furthermore colored sheep head sculptures are also placed in front of shrines.

Chemar box, butter sculpture, and Losar Metok ...... in the minds of the Tibetan people all represent a meaning approximating "mascot", we can usher in good weather, and a great harvest during Tibetan New Year with them.