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From Warm Welcomes to Awkward Encounters: โ€˜Lolayโ€™ Tradition at a Crossroads

โ€ฆ๐‘จ๐’” ๐‘ฉ๐’‰๐’–๐’•๐’‚๐’๐’†๐’”๐’† ๐’„๐’๐’Ž๐’Ž๐’–๐’๐’Š๐’•๐’Š๐’†๐’” ๐’‚๐’…๐’‚๐’‘๐’• ๐’•๐’ ๐’Ž๐’๐’…๐’†๐’“๐’ ๐’•๐’Š๐’Ž๐’†๐’”, ๐’•๐’‰๐’† ๐’๐’๐’„๐’†-๐’„๐’‰๐’†๐’“๐’Š๐’”๐’‰๐’†๐’… ๐’•๐’“๐’‚๐’…๐’Š๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’ ๐’๐’‡ ‘๐‘ณ๐’๐’๐’‚๐’š’ ๐’‡๐’‚๐’„๐’†๐’” ๐’„๐’‰๐’‚๐’๐’๐’†๐’๐’ˆ๐’†๐’”, ๐’˜๐’Š๐’•๐’‰ ๐’–๐’๐’‘๐’“๐’†๐’‘๐’‚๐’“๐’†๐’…๐’๐’†๐’”๐’” ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’๐’„๐’„๐’‚๐’”๐’Š๐’๐’๐’‚๐’ ๐’๐’†๐’ˆ๐’‚๐’•๐’Š๐’—๐’† ๐’“๐’†๐’‚๐’„๐’•๐’Š๐’๐’๐’”. ๐‘ป๐’‰๐’† ๐’‰๐’†๐’‚๐’“๐’•๐’‡๐’†๐’๐’• ๐’‘๐’“๐’‚๐’„๐’•๐’Š๐’„๐’† ๐’๐’‡ ๐’†๐’™๐’„๐’‰๐’‚๐’๐’ˆ๐’Š๐’๐’ˆ ๐’‘๐’“๐’‚๐’š๐’†๐’“๐’” ๐’‡๐’๐’“ ๐’‘๐’“๐’๐’”๐’‘๐’†๐’“๐’Š๐’•๐’š ๐’‚๐’๐’… ๐’‰๐’‚๐’‘๐’‘๐’Š๐’๐’†๐’”๐’” ๐’†๐’๐’„๐’๐’–๐’๐’•๐’†๐’“๐’” ๐’‰๐’–๐’“๐’…๐’๐’†๐’” ๐’Š๐’ ๐’„๐’๐’๐’•๐’†๐’Ž๐’‘๐’๐’“๐’‚๐’“๐’š ๐’”๐’๐’„๐’Š๐’†๐’•๐’š.

Sonam Deki

While festivities such as Diwali, Christmas, and Halloween prompt meticulous preparations well in advance, one may wonder if the same holds true for Lolay. Are the people equally prepared for this unique Bhutanese occasion? The cherished tradition of “Lolay,” a celebration involving the recitation of verses in prayers accompanied by the offering of abundant good wishes, is facing challenges as societal shifts have led to a decline in its reception. In the past, this festival enjoyed widespread celebration. However, in the present scenario, despite the numerous individuals who partake in the celebrations, there remains a minority who exhibit negligence and fail to reciprocate the gestures extended to them.

Winter Solstice or Nyilo is celebrated to welcome the New Year, especially by the people of Shar and Wang regions. According to Buddhist astrology, Nyilo is the day from which the duration of sunlight time increases, signifying the start of longer days until the Summer Solstice.

Lolay essentially entails the recitation of verses in prayers, accompanied by the offering of abundant good wishes. During this tradition, children in groups visit homes and shops to extend these heartfelt prayers and wishes for the new year. Unfortunately, over time, many individuals have become unprepared for this custom. Some are unsure about what to offer in return, and regrettably, others are even observed chasing away the children engaged in this endearing practice.

The once-warm reception is waning as many individuals find themselves unprepared for this customary exchange. Some residents admit uncertainty about what to offer in return, leading to awkward encounters. “I appreciate the sentiment behind ‘Lolay,’ but I’m often caught off guard. I don’t know what to provide, and it can be a bit uncomfortable,” remarks Sangay Lhamo, a local resident in Thimphu.

Tshering Tobgay from Haa said, “Similar to the age-old traditions of Nyilo among the Shah people and Chunipai Losar celebrated in the East, Lolay holds a special place. During our youth, typically teenagers below the age of eighteen would engage in the tradition of singing Lolay. These verses, constituting Lolay, are essentially prayers wishing prosperity, peace, and happiness for the families in the households they visit throughout the year.”

Regrettably, a more disheartening trend has emerged, with some individuals observed actively chasing away the children participating in this endearing practice. Such reactions raise concerns about the preservation of cultural traditions and the impact of changing attitudes within our community.

Ap Sangay recounted, “It was midday when I heard children singing the song ‘Lolay, Lolay.’ I found myself uncertain about how to respond, as it was the first time children had come to my house singing. Overcoming my initial embarrassment, I mustered the courage to go outside and inquire about their purpose. In a soft voice, one of the children said, ‘Uncle, we collect money and rice, and some people give us whatever they can.’ He added, “Returning inside, I prepared some rice and offered money. It dawned on me that we are not adequately prepared for our own cultural practices, which have been passed down from our grandparents. In contrast, we are often quick to embrace Western culture. A few minutes later, I heard a loud voice from upstairs scolding the kids for making too much noise. To my dismay, it was the house owner reprimanding the children. Witnessing our fellow Bhutanese being disheartened by such cultural traditions is truly disconcerting.”

Lopen Thukten Jamtsho of Zhung Dratshang explains, “The term ‘Lo’ signifies year, and ‘lay’ conveys goodness. In our belief, children are akin to precious gems and are revered as symbols of divinity. When these children visit each household to offer prayers, it is considered auspicious. This practice is deeply rooted in our culture and tradition, wherein the children gradually initiate praises. The prayers extend good wishes for prosperity and a fulfilling life throughout the year. The lyrics themselves are inherently positive and filled with well-wishing sentiments. Preserving our traditions is crucial, and embracing slight changes can be beneficial.

In the past, when children sang ‘Lolay,’ households offered a bowl of rice, Sikam (dry pork), Shakam (dry beef), and whatever provisions were available. Subsequently, the children would embark on a picnic the following day. However, in contemporary times, many individuals opt to offer monetary contributions.”

Traditional Lolay Recitation in the local dialect:-
Oka Nor Gi Gang Chuuโ€”Lolay, Lolay!
Barkheb Ju Gi Gang Chuuโ€”Lolay, Lolay!
Tengtho Mi Gi Gang Chuuโ€”Lolay, Lolay!
Chimtho Dar Gi Gang Chuuโ€”Lolay, Lolay!
In English, the verse translates roughly to:
May the ground floor be filled with cattleโ€”good year!
And middle floor be filled with wealthโ€”good year!
May the top floor be filled with peopleโ€”good year!
And the rooftop be filled with flagsโ€”good year!

As our community embraces evolving customs, there is hopeful anticipation that the spirit of ‘Lolay’ and its intrinsic positivity will endure, weaving a thread that connects generations and nurtures a unified sense of identity amidst changing times.

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