Tibetans Celebrate the New Year in Manhattan

On Saturday, Feb. 13, hundreds gathered in Manhattan to celebrate Losar, the Tibetan New Year.

The Tibetan lunar calendar marks the year 2143, year of the fire-monkey. Losar is a time of gratitude, spiritual renewal and communal celebration. During the three-day holiday Tibetans wish each other “Losar Tashi Delek,” blessings and auspicious signs.

Saturday’s celebration began by honoring the Dalai Lama, whose portrait was placed on stage by Buddhist monks, led by dancers dressed as snow lions, the symbol of Tibet. The Dalai Lama is the leader of the main school of Tibetan Buddhism and symbol of the movement for Tibetan autonomy.

Tibet, currently an Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, was taken over by China in 1950. In 1959 a Tibetan rebellion was brutally suppressed, and a government-in-exile was established in India, and many Tibetans fled to India and Nepal.

The Losar celebration was held at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in Murray Hill. Community leaders gave speeches in between live performances on stage. Performances ranged from dances typical to different regions of Tibet to songs sang by children from Tibetan-language schools to a live comedy.

In the late afternoon Lobsang Sangay, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile currently visiting the U.S., visited the celebration and addressed the hundreds of assembled community members.

New York’s Tibetan community is based in Queens and Brooklyn, in particular in the neighborhoods of Woodside, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst. The community maintains a community center in Woodside and several Tibetan-language schools.

Watch the festivities and hear from Sonam Gyatso, president of the Tibetan Community of New York and New Jersey, in the video produced by Josh Shephard Futtersak and Gabe Carroll.

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