Traditions of Mongolia
Traditions of Mongolia
Traditions of Mongolia
Mongolia's national holiday at the start of each year has special significance in the country's ritual and tradition. During the three-day holiday the country comes to a standstill as family and friends renew ties and plan for a prosperous new year.
The holiday, Tsagaan Sar or 'White Month,' symbolizes an abundance of milk and for Mongolians is the reason they have always revered white. Mongolians believe that success and luck for the coming year will be reflected in how people spend the Tsagaan Sar holiday.
The date varies between late January and early March as Mongolia follows the 12 animal cycles of the lunar calendar with other Eastern and central Asian countries. The original date in autumn when there was an abundance of dairy products, was changed in 1206, when Temujin was proclaimed the Great Khaan of all Mongols. He held an elaborate feast on the last day of winter, and decided to make this the New Year and the holiday have been celebrated ever since early in each new year.
Tsagaan Sar is the time when every family cleans their home, possessions and clothes and wives traditionally make new outfits for their husbands.
It is divided into Bituun, the last day of the year where there is a half moon; Shiniin Negen the next day which is the first day of the new year and the third day as the last day of the Tsagaan Sar feast.Before Bituun, everyone is expected to pay off debts, heal quarrels, fill every container in the house, fill willow baskets with dung, pots with food and thread spindles.Every family prepares buuz and bansh (dumplings) for visiting rela-tives and friends.
First thing on the morning of Bituun, all men and children go the Ovoo, or shrine on top of a nearby hill or mountain, carrying food and pray to nature while walking around it three limes. Women are not allowed to go to the Ovoo and prepare tea and festive foods at that time. Everyone is expected to eat heartily to set a pattern for the new year of plenty of food and prosperity. One buuz will contain a coin and the finder can expect special good fortune and prosperity. Everyone is expected to wear new clothes on Bituun.
On Shiniin Negen. people are expected to get up early and take their first steps m the direction dictated by the year they were born, as advised by a lama or astrologists who suggest directions and publish them in newspapers. People show respect to their ciders and pay special attention to children, and relatives visit each other with the eldest first. Family members follow the traditional Mongolian greeting /zolgokh/ with their eldest relatives by offering a khadag (blue silk scarf) with outstretched hands and upturned palms and bow and say. "May you be healthy and happy."
The ritual greeting is performed between everyone except husband and wife who are considered as one person.
After the greetings, elders exchange snuffboxes and hosts serve their guests with milk tea, tsagaalga (rice flavored with Mongolian butter, sugar and grape), meat from boiled lamb and buuz. People, who have quarreled also exchange snuffboxes representing mutual respect as a substitute for a verbal apology. The message carried in the greeting represents. "I am sorry, I had bad thoughts about you because of what other people said," or. "I hold no grudge against you." and "I forgive you."
Families who live in gers prepare a table straining with food including a whole boiled lamb with a fatty tail and the table decorated with ul boov or stiff pastry bases in layers of three, live, seven or nine. Nine is a significant number, and state ceremonies often have nine layers of ul boov; there are 99 heavens; nine wishes and nine precious stones.Older people usually have seven layers, while families with a grandfather have five associated with five colours and five fancy foods. Newlyweds have three layers where three is associated with beginnings. The ul boov has sweets, sugar, cream, and shar tos (Mongolian butter). Guests arrive through the day, and sing as morin khuur (horse head fiddles) play.
On the final day of Tsagaan Sar. gifts are given out and the ul boov is dismantled. Gift giving is an important part of Tsagaan Sar. Elders arc given the khadag as a sign of deep respect and are wished good health and long life: Mongolians usually avoid gifts of dark colours, and prefer not to give a single item.
As the celebrations wind down, family and relatives repeat their wishes for good health and happiness and that the incoming year will be peaceful without suffering or hatred.
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