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Happy 2073! Celebrating New Year’s in Nepal

April 22, 2016

New Year's in NepalOn the eve of April 13th Nepalis all over the country celebrated the year 2073.

For those accustomed to the Gregorian calendar and who have a vague recollection of the ball dropping 4 months ago this may be a bit confusing. While the Gregorian calendar is widely accepted in the Nepali community the country also follows the Bikram Sambat (B.S) system which uses lunar months and solar sidereal years. The Nepali calendar is called Nepali Patro and it gives exact dates for cultural events and festivals and indicates auspicious days for marriage and other milestone rituals. To stay on top of upcoming holidays and special events in Nepal be sure to regularly reference your Nepali Patro.

In Nepal the New Year is referred to as “Nawa Barsha” and it’s celebrated as a public holiday throughout the country. The New Year falls on Baishakh 1st, which is the first month in the Bikram Sambat calendar. For a Gregorian equivalent, Baishak 1st falls in the middle of April.
Like many cultures celebrating the end of a year and the beginning of a new one the event is marked by parties, family gatherings, the exchange of good wishes and the practice of rituals to ensure good fortune in the year to come.

How it all begins

Bisket Jatra signals the start of Nepali New Year. This culturally significant festival involves two huge chariots symbolizing God Bhairava and Goddess Bhadrakali. These golden chariots are hauled around town by dozen of townspeople, pausing along the way to allow for wild tug-of-war fights between the citizens until they reach Khalna Tole in Bhaktapur, only 12 km from Kathmandu City.

On the New Year’s Eve at Khalna Tole, a 25 meter long Lingam (phallic symbol) is erected in the stone of Yoni (female genital symbol) base. This unity, indicating fertility, is a temporary structure and is demolished on New Year’s Day in another vigorous battle of tug-of-war between the habitants of the east and west side of Bhaktapur. As the pole hits the ground, the New Year officially commences.

Joining in on the fun

Since the New Year usually falls in mid-April during the height of the spring trekking season it’s the prefect holiday to tack on to your travel itinerary. Besides giving the traveler a rare chance to immerse in local custom and tradition, many fun events are organized around this time such as concerts, fairs, cultural shows, dance parties, and sports competitions.

In and around Kathmandu

If you find yourself in Kathmandu for the New Year, Thamel is a popular place to visit for locals and tourists alike. The streets, restaurants and shops are decorated for the occasion and hotels, bars and nightclubs organize events to attract the young crowd. Check with your hotel if they are arranging any functions and if not, they will surely point you in the right direction.

Outside the capital, music can be heard echoing all around the foothills as families and friends gather for picnics complete with Dal Bhat and dancing. Nepalis are famous for their hospitality so don’t be surprised if you’re pulled into a circle and asked to bust out your best Bollywood moves while you’re out walking in the Kathmandu Valley.

In Pokhara

Further afield Pokhara tops the list of holiday getaways for both domestic and foreign tourists. The string of hotels, restaurant and bars with live music along the beautiful Fewa Lake promises a good time for all ages. This is an especially convenient place to celebrate New Year’s before heading off on a trek in the Annapurna mountain range with trailheads starting only a few kilometers away.

In solitude

If you’re yearning for a more quiet setting to ring in the New Year why not celebrate new beginnings in the quiet company of the tallest mountains in the world.

Anything to add? Share your tips with us on how to best celebrate New Year’s in Nepal.  In the meantime, may 2073 bring health, love and happiness to you all.

(Photo credit to Romancing the Planet on Flickr)

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