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Home  → About us  → News  → Russian Buddhists celebrate Lunar New Year on the 11 February 2013.

Russian Buddhists celebrate Lunar New Year on the 11 February 2013.


According to the Buddhist lunar calendar the New Year starts at the time of the first new moon of spring or on the first day of the first lunar month. Usually it falls on late January or early February. Each year Buddhist lamas-astrologers recalculate the exact date of the celebration. This time following their calculations Buryatia welcomes the New Year on the 11 February 2013.

In Buryatia the New Year, Sagaalgan (in Buryat “the White month”), traditionally begins on the 29th day of the 12th lunar month. On this day, 9 of February 2013, monasteries and datsans are carrying out a special fire ritual of purification and removal of obstacles – Dugzhuub. Every family makes preparations for the ritual which includes a rubdown with some fresh dough that symbolizes deliverance from negative thoughts and actions. Then they make small figures out of dough and put them into a ritual fire near the temple. Lamas and monks hold a special ceremony of purification and dissolution of negative energies and make a fire. It is believed that all bad and any obstacles are burnt away in that fire.

On the next day, 10 of February, all Buryat datsans are carrying out hurals (ceremonies) dedicated to Balden Lhamo, the protectress of the Buddha’s Teachings. Milk, fresh tea, food and other things are traditionally offered to Balden Lhamo at the hural. In order to get the protectress’ blessing people don’t go to bed this night – one may meditate at home and recite mantras or attend initiation ceremonies in a temple. It’s deemed that invoking Balden Lhamo on this night has a more powerful effect – it may help to eliminate troubles and resolve difficult issues. Solemn services which end with the morning hural “Sidor Lhamo” in honour of Sagaalgan incoming are performed in the datsans all day and night long.

At 6am when the prayer service is over people arrange tables at their homes. On the festive table there is so-called white food – Russian cream cheese, sour cheese, milk and butter. One customarily spends the first day with his family. The White month celebration goes on up to the full moon is seen. At that time people go to see their friends and relatives, give each other gifts and make parties. Festive services are running daily in the temples.

The Tuva Republic is also going to welcome the New Year on the 11th February. It’s called Shagaa and symbolizes the beginning of a new life.

As in Buryatia, the fire purification ceremony – San Salyr – is an integral part of the holiday. It is believed that the ceremony participants will be protected by good deities, and good luck and success will wait for them in the new year. Shagaa is also celebrated for one month. At this time the Tuvans prepare plenty treats for their friends and relatives. Here the milk or “white” products such as inoculated milk (“hoytpak”) and dried curd (“kurut”) have a special place on the festive table.

The Kalmyks already celebrated their Zul on the 8th of December 2012. The tradition is that early in the morning the whole family starts preparing national treats (bortsogy, tea). Then everybody goes to a temple to attend a festival hural. After that one can go out to have fun elsewhere. But when the sun is down all family members as a must gather round the festive table and watch the New Year in. However, on the 11th of February the Tsagan Sar (“White month”) will be celebrated as well. There is a custom to thoroughly clean Buddhist temples and private houses beforehand, and various purification ceremonies are held as well. It’s a traditional time to visit relatives and to prepare bortsoks (a traditional dish).

The Buddhist New Year celebration tradition in Kalmykia, Buryatia and Tuva originates from Tibet from where the Buddhist Teachings came to Russia in the 7th century along with traditional Buddhist ceremonies of New Year reception. The holiday exact date calculation using astrological tables takes its rise in Tibet. But due to the difference in calculations such dates may vary in different countries.

On the holiday eve of the holiday a number of purification ceremonies are carried out. The Buryat custom to fashion small human figures stems from similar Tibetan purification ceremonies. On the 22nd day of the 12th month the Tibetans make a dough “ling” – a small human figure to which pieces of wool and silk fabric, decorations and coins are fixed, and then bad fairies are invoked to get in the ling. On the 29th day of the 12th month they invite a lama who should take the figure away.

On New Year’s Eve the monasteries hold a mystery called “Cham” which comprises dances of lamas in masks symbolizing the end of the previous year and removal of possible obstacles in the new one, and those of lay people with swords as well as throwing out the ling in a solemn way. Losar celebration lasts for two weeks. During these 2 monasteries carry out best wishes ceremonies.





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