Families prepare for Losar some days in advance by thoroughly cleaning their homes; decorating with fragrant flowers and their walls with auspicious signs painted in flour such as the sun, moon, or a reversed swastika; and preparing cedar, rhododendron, and juniper branches for burning as incense.
During this colorful event, a crowd gathers at Kathmandu’s ancient Buddhist stupas (map) to sing, dance, and joyfully throw barley flour (tsampa) to ring in the new year.
Over the course of the celebration, the Dalai Lama gives a speech and leads other high monks in prayers, rituals, ceremonies, and processions around Boudhanath Stupa. Monks perform a masked dance which plays out the battle between good and evil—good always triumphs, of course.
On the first day of Losar, everyone gets up long before dawn, gathers in the temples with the monks and lamas, and participates in making good wishes for the New Year. Everyone is clean, and wears their new, (or at least freshly washed), clothes. And also, although this is not a central theme, it is a communal birthday: everyone is one year older. For the rest of the day most people will stay home, or visit the lamas they feel closely connected to. It is a day of relaxation and fun.
On the second day Tibetans visit each other and this too is a day of being with family and friends. Tibetans are very fond of the good life, and this is an occasion for good eating, drinking, telling stories, laughing, and playing dice, cards, or mahjong. The kids are in charge of fireworks, and during Losar one is regularly awakened to the present moment by powerful detonations.
On the third day, the Tibetans in Boudhanath gather at the Great Stupa for a large communal offering. Everyone will wear their new clothes, and the Stupa will be very crowded.