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Tsagaan Sar

Every year the Mongolians celebrate “Tsagaan Sar” or New Year between winter and spring (the exact date depends on the lunar calendar). Usually, it is held at new moon at the end of January or in February. The holiday is celebrated throughout Mongolia for three days. Tsagaan Sar is a holiday that celebrates the end of winter and serves to welcome a flourishing new year. It symbolizes a healthy, wealthy life. People start their preparations for Tsagaan Sar one month before hand. Families make several hundred to several thousands of buuz (dumpling cooked by steaming), bansh (small dumpling cooked by boiling): they prepare plenty of food for all relatives, neighbors and friends that visit the family. The gers, barns and yards of animals must be as clean as possible. Women make new deels (a traditional item of clothing) for every family member.

How the Sagaan Sar is celebrated?

The day before Tsagaan Sar is named “bituun” or no moon day. On this day, families put a feast of sheep rump, layers of traditional cookies that erected on large plates by odd numbers and decorated with candies and dairy products, airag (fermented mares milk), rice cooked with curd, steamed and boiled dumplings and much more on the table. When it gets dark, people wear their finest clothes and sit around the table to feast until they can eat no more and visit neighbors and relatives carrying food continue to the feast. Three pieces of ice and hay are put at the doorway for deity Baldan Lham and her mute, because people believe that the deity visits every family during the night of no moon day. The next morning, people get up before sunrise, get dressed in their finest clothes and walk in directions prescribed by the zodiac to start of the new year in right direction. This is thought to bring good luck for the coming year. Then men climb up the nearest mountain to greet the first sunrise of the New Year. Women make milk tea and offer the best of it to earth and god. Big and small dumplings are cooked. With the sunrise, the greeting ceremony starts: the eldest or hosts of the family sit at khoimor (opposite side of door). When people greet, both extend their arms, palms turned up. Younger family members support the elders at the elbows from below and say “Amar sain baina uu?” which means “how are you? The elder one says “mendee, amar sain uu?” meaning “fine, And you?” and the older family member kisses the other on the both cheeks. Sometimes this action is done with “Khadag”, a symbolic blue scarf, through which they express their respect each other. After the greeting ceremony another feast starts amongst the family. When finished, people visit each other’s homes in order of age (youths go elders’ home to greet) and are offered by dumplings, milk tea etc. The hosts of the family generally provide gifts for the visitors. This way, the feast continues (officially for three days, but in practice, it often goes on for much longer when family members travel long distances to greet one another).