Today, February, 22, is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent on the Christian calendar. It is also Losar, the beginning of 2139, the Year of the Water Dragon on the Tibetan calendar. The dates of Lent and Losar both involve lunar calculations, so it’s just coincidence that they align this year.
Tibetan astrology predates Buddhism but was adapted by that tradition. There are 12 signs and five elements, for a total of 60 combinations. The astrological year begins not at Losar, but around the time of the Winter Solstice, so children born since December 22 are Water Dragons. So are those celebrating their 60th birthday.
Here is a good introduction to Tibetan astrology. http://www.tactus.dk/tacom/. It’s a complicated system, so this is a newspaper horoscope version. One website predicts 2012 will be “an eventful, mixed blessing year” – what year isn’t? Another says, “The year of the Dragon is full of energy and surprises. The element of water symbolizes calm and receptivity.”
The Chinese government has closed the borders of Tibet to foreigners during the traditional 15 days of Losar celebration. In recognition of recent unrest, some Tibetan leaders in exile are asking that traditional celebrations not go forward. Prayers and ceremonies will still mark the event worldwide. Tibetans believe that the power of both positive and negative actions during the first month of the new year are greatly multiplied in their effect on the year to come.
In any event, Losar is a time when the traditional greeting, Tashi Delek, is given, a phrase that is sometimes translated as, “Blessings and good luck.”