Losar begins on the first day of the first of twelve lunar months on the Tibetan calendar.
In the monasteries, the celebrations for the Losar begin on the 29th day of the twelfth month, on the day before the Tibetan New Year's Eve.
On that day, dough balls, with various hidden ingredients such as chillies, salt, wool, rice and coal, are given out. These hidden ingredients are supposed to be a light-hearted comment on the character of the receiver. For example, chillies in your dough ball mean you are talkative. White-coloured ingredients like salt, wool or rice are considered a good sign. Coal in the dough has much the same meaning as finding coal in one's Christmas stocking, namely that you have a "black heart".
During the pre-Buddhist period in Tibet, when Tibetans practiced the Bon religion, every winter a spiritual festival was held where people offered large quantities of incense to please local spirits and deities.
The festival is said to have originated when an old woman named Belma introduced the measurement of time based on the phases of the moon. This festival took place during the flowering of the apricot trees of a region of Tibet in autumn.
Various ceremonies to celebrate the arts of cultivation, irrigation, refining iron from ore and building bridges are precursors of the Losar festival.
When the basics of astrology, based on the five elements, were introduced in Tibet, this farmer's festival became what we now call the Losar or New Year's festival. This religious festival later evolved into an annual Buddhist festival which is believed to have originated during the reign of the ninth King of Tibet.
Losar is celebrated for 15 days, with the main celebrations on the first three days.
On the first day a beverage called changkol (similar to beer) is made, and the celebrations are usually restricted to the family.
The second day of Losar is known as King's Losar. The second and third days are spent visiting and exchanging gifts with friends and more distant relatives.
The Tibetan year has its own unique gender, element and animal. These aspects are: 2013: female, water, sheep/goat; 2014: male, wood, monkey; 2015: female, wood, bird/rooster; 2016: male, fire, dog.