Monday, February 11, 2013

FYI: Tsagaan Sar

We wish all Mongolians
a joyous Tsagaan Sar

Below originally posted on Wikipedia

Mongolian Lunar New Year, commonly known as Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian: Цагаан сар; or literally White Moon) is the first day of the year according to the Mongolian lunar calendar. The festival of the lunar New Year is celebrated by the Mongols. The White Moon festival is celebrated two months after the first new moon following the winter solstice. Tsagaan Sar is one of the most important Mongol holidays.

Around the New Year families burn candles at the altar symbolising enlightenment. Also people greet each other by saying phrases like Амар байна уу? (Amar baina uu?), a greeting specific to the event meaning "Are you well-rested?". 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 be dressed in full garment of national Mongol costumes. When greeting their elders during the White Moon festival, 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 pieces of colored cloth called khadag. After the ceremony, the extended family eats rice with curds, dairy products and buuz and drinks airag, and exchanges gifts.

The day before Tsagaan Sar is called Bituun, the name of the lunar phase of dark moon. The lunar phases are Bituun (dark moon), Shined (new crescent moon), Tergel (full moon), and Huuchid (waxing moon). On the Bituun day, people thoroughly clean around home, herders also clean the livestock barns and shades, to meet the New Year fresh. The Bituun ceremony also includes burning candles to symbolize enlightenment of the samsara and all sentient beings and putting 3 pieces of ice at the doorway so that the horse of the deity Palden Lhamo could drink as the deity is believed to visit every household on this day. In the evening, families gather together--immediate family usually, in contrast to the large feast gatherings of White Moon day--and see out the old year eating dairy products and buuz. Traditionally, Mongolians settle all issues and repay all debts from the old year by this day.

Traditional food for the festival includes dairy products, rice with curds (tsagaa-цагаа) or rice with raisin (berees-бэрээс), a pyramid of traditional cookies erected on a large dish in a special fashion symbolising Mount Sumeru or Shambhala realm, a grilled side of sheep and minced beef or minced mutton steamed inside pastry, a dish known as buuz, horse meat and traditional cookies. Tsagaan Sar is a lavish feast, requiring preparation days in advance, as the women make large quantities of buuz and freeze them to save for the holiday.

During Mongolia's Communist period, the government banned Tsagaan Sar and tried to replace it with a holiday called "Collective Herder's Day", but the holiday was practiced again after the 1990 Democratic Revolution in Mongolia.