Saturday, December 18, 2010

Happy New Year!

After a lovely few weeks holiday I've sent my own personal Porter back home - with a chuck of my ever-growing book collection. Having time off over the Christmas and New Year period was lovely, and certainly a different experience to this time of year back home. I'll share a few of our adventures over the next week or so before I head back to the village and leave email behind me for a few weeks.

One of the social highlights of the holiday was New Years Eve, when we met up with some friends, and a few of their drunk friends and ended up at a jazz bar drinking cocktails until the small hours. Of course, the Western New Year isn't that exciting in Nepal - it's one of at least a dozen that crops up.

There's the Nepali New Year which is in mid-April - it's based on the Bikram Sambat calendar also used in India. We're currently in the year 2067, which actually makes 2011 seem a little behind the times.

Then there's the Newari New Year - Newars being indigenous to the Kathmandu Valley, and their calendar is the Nepal Sambat. For them, New Year falls in around Tihar, so some time in November and we're only in the year 1332 right now. There's a push among certain groups to get this recognised as the official calendar of Nepal.

Next is Tibetan New Year, known as Losar, and celebrated by various ethnic groups in Nepal that are Buddhists of the Tibetan schools. But, to make things complicated, there are no fewer than three different dates for Losar. The first is Sonam Losar, which follows the lunar new year. The thing I like most about Losar is that it is celebrated for two weeks - which sounds like a proper party to me! This is the Losar date that Tam speakers celebrate - and for 2011 the first day conveniently falls on my birthday. The second Losar, Gyalpo Losar, is celebrated on the 5th of March in 2011. It's celebrated by Buddhists from Tibet and several Buddhist ethnic groups in Nepal. Finally, the Gurung ethnic group celebrate Tamu Losar as a fixed date every year, as opposed to basing it on the lunar calendar. These guys actually kicked of the Losar season, with Tamu Losar falling on the 15th of Poush, on the Nepali Calendar - which this year was the 30the of December - meaning they were recovering from their hangovers just when Westerners were embarking on theirs.

The Tharu ethnic group in the Terai - the flat lands in the south of Nepal that are heavily farmed - also celebrate New Years on a different date, although I should find out more about them. And there is a small but not insignificant Muslim population in Nepal which means that they recently celebrated the Islamic New Year on the 26th of November.

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