In the lunar year 2076, thirty-two festivals in Nepal come with National holiday and celebration. In addition, there are hundreds of them celebrated according to various ethnicity, demography and territory.
Holi and Tihar are almost the most globally popular festivals in Nepal. The first one, because of the colors, and the second one, because of the lights. However, there’s more festivals than meet the eyes. As a traveler, you will the festivals listed below significant and participatory. Let’s have a look.
Festival highlights: comedy standup events, street festivals, dancing & liquors
In an attempt to light up his mourning queen, an ancient king of the valley introduced Gaijatra, where people of Kathmandu take up the streets of Kathmandu with joy and laughter.
A cow or a boy dressed up as cow is a common sight, signaling to life after death as family members of the deceased find joys in the communal loss and that they are not the only one. Participating and observing could elevate your own pain or suffering as you feel a communal support to elevate your spirit. Bring some sweets, food and drinks to offer the participants that tour the city as a nice gesture.
When and where: 16th of August, the streets of Kathmandu (Basantapur), Patan, Bhaktapur and Kirtipur.
Festival highlights: Street festivals, Chariot Display, Goddess Kumari Darshan, Masked Dancers & Roleplay
Reach at the Basantapur square, and find a high place to spectate the largest festival in Kathmandu. To put it in perspective, it’s the last day of a week long celebration of feasts, worship and street fest. Apart from the Newar community who organizes it, thousands flock in to spectate the chariot show.
Indra, the god of harvest, is celebrated with roleplay of demons and gods. Lakehy Naach (a dance) will definitely pull your attention along with the crowd, procession, and of course, the glimpse of Kumari, the living goddess of Nepal.
When and Where: 13th of September, afternoon, Basantapur Durbar Square
Festival highlights: Run, Climb, Crawl, Wrestle a Yeti and win. 2k, 5K, 15K and 50K, live music, DJ & food stall.
All festivals don’t have to be religious, and that’s what Godawari Running Festival shouts out. You will need to book this event with your team members, and pay a small registration fees. The event was hosted by North Face and sponsored by various sporting brands in 2018.
Wake up early and head to Godawari, a forest reserve in Lalitpur district. This event is family friendly, and provides various options based on your fitness level and interest. Both locals and expats participate actively. The most popular choice is definitely the 5K run where the last Kilometers is full of obstacles where you literally hit the dirt!
Festival highlights: 8th of September, 2019, morning, Godawari Park, Lalitpur.
Festival highlights: Clean and clear road, family fun, swing, trekking season
The greatest festival of Nepal kicks off with a 5 day Government Holiday from 5th to 9th of October in 2019. The Hindus of Nepal consider Dashain as the greatest festival of Nepal. October is also one of the best trekking season in Nepal. So it’s likely that you will get a chance to observe and participate if you happen to be at Nepal’s best season.
The distinct Red Tika on forehead and green rice leaf on their head or ears symbolises the faith of Nepali people in their religion and relationships.
From a traveler’s perspective, there might be a lot to see and participate if you are lucky enough to be invited to someone’s house to observe it. Being open, friendly and social are the only way you are going to celebrate this festival as a local.
When and where: 5th to 8th of October, 2019 – all over Nepal
Festival Highlights: Colorful decorations, lights, Dance and Music Events
Tihar is a fun-filled festival right after Dashain. Wait until sunset, and you will see the whole city come to life with colorful lights, painting the skyline with reds and greens and yellows. Locals go out to play jingles for neighbors and relatives.
The festival is again celebrated nationally with a 4 day holiday. The last day is important among the locals and brothers and sisters wish each other good health and prosperous life with garlands, tika, delicious food and gifts.
When and where: 26th to 29th of October 2019 – all over Nepal
Festival Highlights: Colorful decoration and lights, Dance and Music Events
Christianity being the 5th most practised religion in the country, Chrismas kicks off with markets and malls decorating with Christmas trees, jingle bells and colors. The vive is somewhat similar to Tihar, with people supporting the festival for the positive vibes it brings with colors and lights.
The effect of Christmas is mostly on the urban areas and towns, restaurants and bars. There are also Dance and Music Events happening around the city where you can participate. Expect night events to be organized with popular local and international brands.
When and where: 25th of December, 2019 – Kathmandu, Pokhara and major towns.
Festival Highlights: Native procession and ritual, traditional dance, and folk singing competitions.
Lhosar is the New Year celebration of the mountainous people, most significantly Gurungs, Shepras and others. In fact, the celebration syncs with New Year Celebration in China, Mongolia, Singapore and countries with similar ethnicity.
Tamu Lhosar is celebrated by the Gurungs, Gyalpo Lhosar by Sherpas and Tamangs, and Sonam Lhosar by the whole Buddhist community.
These festivals were prominient in the mountainous regions in the past, but has been creeping into the city life as the ethnic groups dress up in their local costumes and gather around parks in the cities. However, if one wants a more native and prominient feeling, they should definitely head towards the hills and mountains where the native still live.
When and Where: 31st of December 2019, 25th of January 2020 and 24th of February 2020 – all over Nepal
Festival Highlights: Color and water splash, dance and street festivals, musical events
Brace yourself as the whole country comes alive and active with splash of water and color. Holi is one of the most optimistic and colorful festivals in the world. So much that even some western countries have started to celebrate it.
Be aware as the city streets are more crowded and can be a bit intimidated. As people are colored, masked and drunk, it’s easy to get intimidated and even harassed in crowd. Stay in groups and step be aware.
When and where: 9th of March 2019 in the hilly region and the next day in the Terai.
Nepal is known as a country of festivals. More than 126 native ethnic groups come out with various household, communal, religious and national festival that shape the celebration and activities accordingly. 32 Festivals are classified as National holiday and celebration in the lunar year 2076, whereas there are hundreds of festivals celebrated separately by various ethnic groups.
As some festivals have elevated themselves to national festivals, there are still various ones waiting to be recognized and celebrated by everyone regardless of their caste and religious values.
As you find yourself amid one of these festivals, you will understand how symbolism, communal feeling and strong faith have shaped the diverse culture and tradition of Nepal.
Some honorable mentions of festivals celebrated are as follows:
Id Al Fitr – Celebrated by the Muslim Community
Ghode Jatra – Horse show in Kathmandu
Shiva Ratri – The night of Lord Shiva
Teej – Greatest Hindu Women Festival
Chhat – A sun-worshipping festival celebrated by Hindus of the Terai.
Thank you for reading this article. We hope that you now wish to travel Nepal more. With us, you can be a part of these festivals as they happen. Send us an inquiry, and we will integrate the festival along with the trip of your choice. Happy traveling.