Mongolian Lunar New Year – Tsagaan Sar
What is Tsagaan Sar ? It is also called
Beginning of the 13th century, many nomadic tribes had been living separately and were unified by Temuujin to ultimately make up The Great Mongol Empire. It is then on the last month of winter in the 3rd Jaran (60 year cycle also known as the Buddhist Century), on the year of the triumphant Ox, and in the first month of the red Tiger year (1206) he who sat on his throne and was named “Chinggis Khan” also known as the Great Khan. Since then, we have been celebrating the beginning of the lunar year in every spring (for Mongolians it is known as Tsagaan sar- Mongolian Lunar New Year, in English White Month).
Therefore, since the determination of this month of Tigers as the premier and beginning of the Mongolian Lunar new year, 8 centuries have passed and The Mongols have been celebrating this great celebration over the past 800 hundred years.
What We Do during Tsagaan Sar
The Mongolian Lunar New Year (Tsagaan Sar) is one of the most important festivals of the Mongolian nomads, celebrated for more than 2000 years. The 12-cycle Mongolian Lunar Calendar is named after the twelve animals: Dog, Pig, Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey and Rooster. The festival is essentially woven of numerous deeply symbolic rituals. Celebrated throughout the country, the festival remains a holiday that Mongols most look forward to with renewed hopes for happiness and prosperity.
During the festival, people gather with their families at home and show respect to each other through a variety of rituals. On the day of Bituun, the Eve of Tsagaan Sar, family members gather at the home of the eldest member, share traditional dishes and beverages, and play ancient games while sharing stories.
On the morning of the first day of Tsagaan Sar, Mongolians wake up before sunrise to make milk tea and offer the first cup to the earth and sky. As soon as the sun rises, family members visit their elders and greet them by supporting the elders’ elbows in their hands, a gesture through which Mongolians express their respect to each other. Everyone then shares traditional Mongolian food and offers goodwill to each other.
Mongolians feel a cultural and spiritual bond with each other through these rituals. This is the value of Tsagaan Sar. You can experience these two festivals to learn important cultural heritage of Mongolia during your winter trip. Mongolians celebrate them to pass on history, tradition, and cultural heritage to the younger generation which offers a unique glimpse into a Mongolian life.
Does Mongolia celebrate Chinese New Year ?
Mongolia celebrates Lunar New Year which is similiar to Chinese New Year but different on dates.
What Special Dishes We Eat
Mongolians cook three important dishes for the event. Traditional food for the festival includes a grilled side of sheep and minced beef or minced lamb steamed inside pastry. We call dish “buuz”. Tsagaan Sar is a lavish feast so that we preparate days in advance, as the women make large quantities of buuz and freeze them to save for the holiday. Ul Boov – biscuits made of flour – is the second main dish to be on the table. The biscuits are about thirty centimeters long and four centimeters thick. We stack them on a plate with each level laid out in a triangle or square shape. Layers have to be odd numbers – three, five, etc – as the odd numbers represent happiness.
What is custom Greeting of Tsagaan Sar ?
A typical Mongolian family will meet in the home dwelling of the eldest male in the family. When greeting their elders during the White Moon festival, Mongolians grasp them by their elbows to show support for them. The eldest male receives greetings from each member of the family except for his wife.
During the greeting ceremony, family members hold long pieces of colored cloth called khadag. Also people greet each other with holiday-specific greetings such as Амар байна уу? (Amar baina uu?), meaning “Are you living peacefully?” After the ceremony, the family eats buuz and drinks airag (fermented mare’s milk) and exchanges gifts.
Around the New Year families burn candles at the altar symbolizing Buddhist enlightenment. Mongols also visit friends and family on this day and exchange gifts. A typical Mongol family will meet in the home dwelling of the eldest in the family. Many people will dress up full garment of national Mongol costumes.
When greeting their elders, Mongols perform the zolgokh greeting, grasping them by their elbows to show support for them. The eldest receives greetings from each member of the family except for his/her spouse. During the greeting ceremony, family members hold long, typically blue, silk cloths called a khadag. After the ceremony, the extended family eats sheep’s tail, mutton, rice with curds, dairy products, and buuz. It is also typical to drink airag and exchange gifts.
Following the Lunar New Year, locals celebrate Ice Festival on frozen Lake Khovsgol , Eagle hunting festival in Ulaanbaatar and Camel Festival in the Gobi desert. Check out the spring festival tours !
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