Celebrations in Mongolia

Celebrations in Mongolia: Mongolian Traditional Lunar New Year.

Mongols call Tsagaan Sar which literally means White Moon. This is the most important and probably widely celebrated Holiday in Mongolia today. Every family tree, or what we call “ovog” or clan, observe this holiday in most traditional and honored way.

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It is usually falls around the same time as the Chinese New Year because every year we go to our Chinese friend but sometimes it does not. I heard that is because Mongolian Lunar calendaris very much adapted from Tibetan Calendar due to long term religious ties. The difference is Chinese elderly people give money to little ones but Mongolians give gifts and cash to their elders.

The eve of White Moon Day is called Bituun meaning “to the fullest”. It starts by sundown and the families come together to eat very special meal until they really full. The main dish is buuz, steamed dumpling made of beef or mutton, and the greasier the buuz are the better.

I remember most of the foreign expatriates take their vacation during this time to escape Mongol hospitality. Every Mongol family will proudly host the foreign guests according to traditions and “push” buuz and all the dishes to the guests.

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Prior to these celebrations in Mongolia, according to traditions, Mongols settle all their debts by the eve of Tsagaan Sar that is to say bye to the old year and greet the new year with great hopes and wishes. Every one are expected to celebrate Bituun day and greet the elders within first two days of the new moon.

By the sunrise of the first day of White Moon, all the families gather to the oldest member in their family tree to greet and pay honor to their long life, and some way to receive blessings, hear words of wisdom. The formal greeting word is “Amar baina uu?” which can be translated as “Peace by with you”.

During this time the oldest member will be sitting and wearing the head. The younger ones also with covered head will approach with hadag and gifts, gently grab the elder’s elbow. Elders kiss on both cheeks and will say words of blessings. Only married couples do not greet in this way because the couples are not two separate individuals.

Average family will prepare minimum a thousand pieces of buuz on top of big fat sheep usually boiled in special way and side dishes as salads, diary products and, of cause, mare’s milk. It is a big feast that goes beyond official 2 o 3 days, and in rural areas where traditions and customs are highly honored, it can go on for weeks till the whole community celebrates this holiday in proper way.

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