Saturday was by no means an ordinary day for Tibetans: It coincided with the New Year's Day of the Year of the Wooden Monkey according to the traditional Tibetan calendar.
Gesang, who lives on Bargor Street in downtown Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, began the New Year's Day by getting up early in the morning and filling silver bowls before the altar in his home with tap water extended to his courtyard.
"The first bucket of water on New Year's Day suggests the best luck we are going to have in the year," said the old man, wearing his best clothes.
An official seven-day holiday was also kicked off Saturday.
As the day brightened up further, residents in the adjacent neighborhoods, all in their best clothes, went from door to door exchanging New Year's greetings.
Yangzhoin, from the Xue (snow) Neighborhood near the famed Potala Palace, said she would go around together with her father on New Year's Day. Wearing a Tibetan robe embedded with gold threads and beautiful patterns and sporting a three-angled cap, Yangzhoin looked gorgeous.
"I want to begin the new year looking beautiful," said the Tibetan girl.
To greet the new year, Tibetans decorated their windows and doors with brand-new curtains, and the doors of their houses with pictures.
Many Tibetan Buddhist believers, all in their festive costumes and carrying prayer wheels and butter lamps, began the most important worship and scripture-reciting activities in the New Year at the 1,355-year-old Jokhang Monastery, situated on Bargor Street. The monastery was lit up by 1,000 butter lamps.
Jokhang, a prime seat of the Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, which houses a famed statue of Sakyamuni, was added to the World Cultural Heritage list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2000.
In Qamdo, an important city in eastern Tibet, smart young Tibetans celebrated the new year with songs and dances. "We have every reason to celebrate, be happy and sing songs on the first day of the new year because our lives are improving day by day," said Gesang Yexi, a local Tibetan.
In the vast pastoral areas of Tibet, plenty of entertainment activities, including horse races, are also being staged during the holiday season, according to local sources.
(Xinhua News Agency February 22, 2004)