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Tibetans rejoice at twin New Year celebration

(Xinhua)    10:14, February 20, 2015

LHASA, Feb. 19 -- For Tibetans, this Lunar New Year is doubly joyful as it coincides with the Tibetan year of the Wooden Ram, which also begins on Thursday.

At the landmark Potala Palace in the heart of the regional capital of Lhasa, thousands of Tibetans, along with tourists, were queuing for entrance since 1 a.m. to pray for a better year.

For many Tibetans, paying homage to Sakyamuni Buddha at the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple and the Ramogia Monastery is the priority on the first day of the New Year.

Cewang Lop, from Qamdo Prefecture, a thousand kilometers away from Lhasa, is among one of them.

Holding his one-year-old son in his arms, Cewang Lop, in a grey Tibetan-style sheepskin jacket, is moving slowly in the crowds.

"I wish the Buddha could bless my son health and happiness," he said.

As of 11 a.m., about 30,000 people had visited the palace, said Zhaxi, head of the Potala Place administration office.

The joyous atmosphere is particularly evident in families with inter-marriage between Tibetans and Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group in China, where traditions from both cultures are honored in a coincidence that comes every three years.

For Wang Hui and his wife Namgyai Zhoigar, it is the first time they have celebrated New Year in their apartment in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

New curtains hang in the apartment, which the couple moved into in January from a ramshackle house. Dried yak meat and salted fish are scattered on the window sill. A big Chinese character "Happiness" graces the living room, where a traditional Tibetan carved table holds beer, soft drinks and sweets.

The New Year decorations are inspired by both Tibetan and Chinese traditions. Couplets are an indispensable part of the Chinese New Year decorations, and they are in Tibetan.

Namgyai Zhoigar is preparing a traditional Tibetan treat called gutu, the Tibetan counterpart of Chinese dumplings, made from ingredients such as ginseng and turnip. Eating gutu is also a game and some are stuffed with various "surprise" fillings including wool, salt or charcoal.

"Like Chinese dumplings, gutu hold good wishes for the New Year," said Namgyai Zhoigar.

At the Karmardang Temple, three hours' ride from Lhasa, monks join villagers and officials to prepare the gutu. Monks at the reclusive temple send out New Year wishes through China's popular instant messaging app WeChat.

The WeChat fad is popular all over the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. In Changjiangyuan Village, 21-year-old Sonam Zhoima said, "It is more respectful to send New Year wishes to the elderly in person. However, for friends and schoolmates, we prefer SMS or WeChat."

In Quxu County near Lhasa, Painba celebrates the twin New Year with his daughter, who goes to school out of Tibet and is home for the winter vacation. At dinner, Painba keeps heaping food in his daughters bowl, while telling her to take good care of herself in school.

The gutu meal is often followed by an exorcism ritual. Each family must have an adult male who runs around the house with a torch expelling the evil spirits. Then the man runs to a crossroads, drops the torch and runs back home amid firecrackers without looking back, therefore the evil spirits are banished.

Family members gather together after the ritual, chat and drink barley wine, as they usher in a New Year with laughter and firecrackers.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Kong Defang,Bianji)

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