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KIM LAWTON, correspondent: Losar is an important family time filled with ancient traditions. Celebrations actually begin on the 29th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan lunar calendar—the day before the last day of the old year. Families gather on this night for guthuk, a special noodle soup with at least nine ingredients. In Queens, New York, Tibetan Buddhist Tenzin Getso says the soup is eaten as part of a ritual to welcome an auspicious new year.

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TENZIN GETSO: My mom is making the offer of the dish we are going to have tonight praying for the long life, happiness and everything that we desire in life.

LAWTON: In the soup, each person receives a piece of dough with a special object hidden inside, such as chili, salt, butter, cheese, wood, a pea or a pebble. These are believed to reveal a personality trait of the person receiving it.

GETSO: My eldest sister just got a piece of green chili, which symbolizes that she's not polite. Rude and everything.

LAWTON: This night is a time to get rid of the negative aspects of the past year. A small piece of dough called pagchi is skimmed over the body, touching areas with pain or discomfort. Tibetans believe that circling the dough three times will transfer aches and ailments to the pagchi. The pagchi is placed into a bowl which also contains a hamachoma, a piece of dough in the shape of a woman. Family members will remove the hamachoma from the house.

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GETSO: The hamachoma is the one who is supposed to take all the bad happenings of the year with her. With the hamachoma, we’ll have a little candle to show her the way. We don’t want her to look back, come back.

When we come back home, my mom, my sister-in-law and my sisters will ask us, "Where are you guys coming from?" We’re going to say, "A place with a lot of happiness, where we can have a lot of fun."

Finally they decide to let us in. They will have a black stone. We have a white stone. We exchange it. The white one will stay inside the house, the black one will stay outside of the house. Our bowls are filled again and we’re going to have the last serving. We do it every year.

LAWTON: The Losar ritual, Getso says, helps make them spiritually clean for the new year.

GETSO: All of the bad things that happened during the year, any bad things in terms of luck, any accidents, any losses, or any unfortunate things that happened that are undesirable, getting rid of them, throwing them away so that we can go into the new year with fresh mind, no problems, and we can start over.

LAWTON: I’m Kim Lawton reporting.

Preparing for Losar

Sharing a special meal and performing rituals of spiritual cleansing help Tibetan Buddhists get ready for the upcoming new year.