Tibetan Drinking Customs


If there is alcohol then there must be songs. If people hold parties and drink, they also sing songs. When toa...

If there is alcohol then there must be songs. If people hold parties and drink, they also sing songs. When toasting others, you should also sing songs for the toasting. If you don’t sing, the person who receives your toast can refuse to drink.

When the person toasting offers his alcohol and the receiver receives the cup, the receiving person can instantly ask the person drinking to sing a song. Sometimes, the person drinking holds the cup full of alcohol and has already begun singing as soon as he walks to the guest. Halfway to finishing the song, the person drinking offers his cup of alcohol. After finishing his song, the person drinking will then perform the tanjiu ceremony (lightly dip the ring finger in the alcohol and flick the alcohol on the finger to the air. The person drinking usually repeats this action three times to show his respect to his guest) and drink.

In some areas, drinking punishment traditions also apply, including mgyogs-chang, vgor-chang, thigs-chang, and so on. Mgyogs--chang is quick drinking, which means the person drinking has drained his cup before the person toasting finishes singing. During the process of singing, if the person drinking has no alcohol in his cup, he is considered as impolite. Therefore, he has to drink one more cup. Wgor-chang is slow drinking, which means the person drinking has not drained his cup even after the person toasting finishes his song. This is regarded as slow response, and the person drinking must drink one more cup. Thigs-chang is alcohol drops, which means as soon as the person drinking finishes his song, the person drinking also drains his cup, but there is still some alcohol left at the bottom of the cup, although what is left is but a few drops. If so, the person drinking will have to drink one more cup.

People think that leaving some alcohol in the cup is disrespectful or insincere to the person toasting, and the person drinking should receive punishment. Those who cannot drink may express their reasons, and others usually won’t force them to drink. The truth is that in the Tibetan community, nearly everyone can drink. After the person toasting finishes his song, and someone pours his alcohol to the floor in secret, the person is considered extremely impolite and will be punished. The above rules only apply to the person drinking.

If the person drinking sings wrong words in his song or forgets the lyrics, he will have to drink one more cup. Sometimes, the person toasting sings exceptionally well. If such things occur, the person drinking should take the cup from the person toasting, and then offer the alcohol to the person toasting instead. If so, this cup of alcohol is called legs--chang, which means good alcohol and shows appreciation that the person drinking has for the person toasting, and others in the party will unanimously persuade the singer to drink this cup of good alcohol.

When the drinking party approaches its end, the alcohol in the drinking vessel is poured into the cup, and if the poured alcohol just reaches the rim of the cup, this is esteemed as something very auspicious. If there are still several drops of alcohol left in the drinking vessel, they will be poured out onto a person’s palm, and he will spread the drops on his head. Doing this is considered something that will bring the person good luck and auspiciousness. Drinking brings so much fun to the people holding the party. The participants will work out all kinds of plans to trap each other to drink more alcohol or sing more drinking songs.

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