Phub Dem | Haa

The people of Haa and Paro are observing Lomba an agricultural festival, ushering in a series of New Year celebrations. Gregorian New Year, Nyi Log (winter solstice), Chunyipai Losar or the Traditional Day of Offering and Dangpai Losar will follow.

What is unique about Lomba? Hoentey—sweet buckwheat dumpling stuffed with a mixture of turnip leaves, amaranth seeds, cottage cheese, seasoned with chili powder, onion, garlic, and ginger.

As per tradition, only on the night of Lomba, Haaps eat Hoentey for dinner. Hoentey now is increasingly becoming a daily food item in restaurants. Lomba is celebrated for five days at least.

Chundu, 73, from Bangyena said that the way people celebrate Lomba has changed significantly. When he was a young boy, relatives from far and wide used to come together to celebrate the occasion.  “Now, it is only my wife and I. I miss those good old days.”

Not alone is urbanisation to blame. The way people live has changed over the years. There is economic pressure on individuals and families.

With an increasing variety of food choices, Hoentey is not popular among the younger generation. “Even if they are aware of its significance, they don’t enjoy the traditional snack,” said Choki, who said that community vitality was fast degrading with development.

“Modern communications technology and devices have disconnected the community,” Chundu said.

Lomba marks the end of the harvest season when people have plenty to eat partake in celebrations and fun before beginning the next cycle of agricultural work. It usually falls on the 29th day of the 9th lunar month of the Bhutanese calendar.

On the Lomba day, people perform a small ceremony at home to ward off the evil and to invoke good health, happiness, and prosperity. Lomba also used to be considered birthday for Parops and Haaps. They would automatically become a year older after Lomba.

Sonam, a civil servant who came to celebrate Lomba in Haa, said that she had been making Hoentay continuously for five days. “I think Lomba is all about flour and staying the whole day at home making Hoentays.”

She must take this speciality to her friends in Thimphu.