Mongolian New Year is called Tsagaan Sar, цагаан сар in Cyrillic alphabet, which means “White Month” or “White Moon”, for moon and month are expressed with the same word.
That really special time for Mongolians starts on a rising moon night – called Bituun-, in 2017 between February the 27th, and March the 1st. It often coincides with Chinese Zodiacal New Year, sometimes with a slight delay. The exact date of the Tsagaan Sar’s beginning is calculated by the monks of the Buddhist Gandan Monastery in Ulaan-Baatar.
Mongolian New Year’s celebration lasts for two weeks during which the first few days are spent with close family, and the next few days are dedicated to visit friends and larger family circle. Mongolians who live in town come back to their native land for short holidays (from three days to one week).
Many public events take place at this time, however the main activity is to produce (and eat) rich meals for every persons that may cross the threshold of the ger. For example, a Mongolian family can make more than 300 buzz (mutton-stuffed dumplings) for this special occasion. Every guest gets its part.
A food-based celebration
Tsagaan Sar represents the slip from winter to spring and the return of dairy products. As milk is one of the main supplies of Mongolian food, the White Month symbolizes the renewal of wellness, and the prospect of abundance and prosperity.
Celebrations are prepared early.
Two months before Mongolian New Year, in each ger ladies start to prepare the “fat oil”– өөхөн тос-, made with mutton-fat. This very long preparation is absolutely necessary, for food will then be cooked and fried in it.
Few weeks before it begins, families buy gifts and food supplies. After the father or masculine head of the family has killed the fatter sheep(s), the family starts to cook special dishes to be ready on time.
Lots and lots (and lots) of buzz (mutton-stuffed dumplings) and huushuur (mutton-stuffed chausson) are made and decorated in a special way.
|This is the Tsagaan Sar’s buzz (by Homie)||This is the traditional buzz (by Les Toqués)|
On Mongolian New Year, families also prepare a very special odd-numbered tiered-cake called the « shiniin idee » (« food of the new). It is made with numerous pieces of fried cake, the « ul boov » (literally « sole-cake »).
On top of the cake there are tasty, dry rancid cheese called « aaruul » and sweets.
Shiniin idee (picture from Renate Bormann)
A call for abundance
Tsagaan Sar embodies the future of the family’s prosperity. Customs may be loosen during the rest of the year, however during that special time they have to be strictly honoured. According to Mongolian mindset, behaviour considered as bad (from hosts as well as guests) might attract misfortunes on the family who receives. If one’s quarrelling on Tsagaan Sar, it is said that they will get a year of quarrels.
During Tsagaan Sar’s celebration, Mongolians have an occasion for dancing, singing and praying for the prosperity of their family as well as for the common good. They dress up with their newest, richest clothes and eat as much as possible to attract and symbolize abundance: may the year be as rich as these clothes, and as full as these meals.
Hospitality in Mongolia is not only considered as a proof of gentleness, but also and mainly as a moral duty in both Buddhist beliefs and Mongolian custom. The act of giving is structured by social practices with the objective of calling for happiness, in this terrestrial life or in another to come.
On Mongolian New Year, the more visitors you honour by offering them food or gifts, the more « hishig » you will get from these acts. “Hishig” means a capital of luck, of good fortune inspired by the actions of the family and of the persons. It is similar to the Buddhist approach of « karma ». As you stock food and give it to others, you spread “hishig” and cause to effect, you get more “hishig”, more prosperity on you and your family.
Mongolian New Year is a great time to visit Mongolia.
For steppes are covered in white satin.
For it is the perfect time to share happiness and joyful encounters.
For Tsagaan Sar is one of the most impressive, structural event of Mongolian culture.
For there is no better time to learn the habits and customs of those who truly wish you welcome.
So, would you or did you go to Mongolia during the Mongolian New Year?
To go further…
If you want to know more about Mongolian New Year, you’ll soon be able to browse our recipes.
If you cannot wait ‘il then, here’s some bonus !
Find and learn new or Tsagaan Sar-related Mongolian words with that tiny Index I made.
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