It's a really interesting time to be in Nepal. We don't celebrate Chinese New Year but the the Tibetan community living in Nepal celebrate Tibetan Loshar in a big way. They worship local deities and family and friends get together to offer prayers and prayer flags as well as burning incense. It actually starts on the first day of the lunar calendar and the Loshar continues for 15 days. This year is the Tiger year. And it's year 2137 according to the Tibetan Calendar.
It's also the time the Sherpa's celebrate their New Year. It's a couple of days celebration with lots of merrymaking, feasting, meeting relatives and offering prayers. Both the Tibetans and Sherpas make khapsey, a mixture of wheat flour, sugar and butter which is fried. The khapsey can be stored and eaten a couple of days or weeks later but I don't know how they keep it so long. When Tibetan and Sherpa Loshar dawns, I personally wish i had lots of Sherpa and Tibetan friends so that i could get more khapseys!
Nepal often has big festivals. A week (or more) back (12th Feb) there was Shivaratri, a big Hindu festival said to be the day Lord Shiva married Parbati. Working with the Hindi calendar, this festival usually falls in February and is celebrated the night before and the day of the new moon. They usually say it rains in Shivaratri and it did. Shivaratri is also said to take away the winter and welcome warmer days ahead.
The main place to be for Shivaratri is in Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu. Devotees actually stay in line to ofer prayer from 12 midnight and offer Bael. There is fare on the other side of Pashupati, across the river. It's literally packed and just no place to put your feet. There are Babas and Sadhus who come all the way from India only for this festival.
For those that stay in Pokhara while Shivarati is celebrated in Pashupatinath, the Shiva temples are busy. For most though it is a chance to celebrate another natural event - it rains sugarcane! Bonfires are set up at the junctions of different areas and locals meet up with plenty of these sweet sticks. They heat them in the bonfire and after a few minutes they slam it on a stone, or the road, to make a huge blast sound. The sugarcane is then enjoyed by everyone, chewing and enjoying the juices. Our students, Lucy and Matt bumped into such gathering on the road in Lakeside while they were here. They were invited by the locals to dance and although embarrassed because they didn't know the moves, they told me they had a good time just dancing and eating sugarcane.
Of course the other big festival was Valentines Day - the youths in Pokhara take it very seriously and you can feel love in the air. People buy roses, exchange cards and have parties ..... our students were surprised at how similar it was to home.
To read more about our Nepal placements click here and to find out more about Nepalese festivals, check out this link. Photo of the sugarcane is courtesy of Andrew Walker - click on the photo to see his flickr page.