Цаг цагаар нэг цаддаг
Цагаан сараар нэг цаддаг
Once in a while we will feast
At Tsagaan sar we will feast
Tsagaan Sar, or White Moon, is the name of the Mongolian Lunar New Year. Its celebrated one month after the first new moon following the winter solstice, kinda like the Chinese New Years… but to make that comparison would be blasphemous to Mongolian ears. The Mongolian New Year is very much its own thing, and it is THE winter holiday in Mongolia . For most PCVs it is a time full of new vocabulary and new cultural norms that are only put into practice these three days of the year. Some new greetings include – Aмap байнa yy? Are you resting well ? And Cайхан өвөлж байнa уу? Are you wintering well ? There is even a special “greeting”, similar to a hand shake, where those that are younger cup the elbows of their elders ( basically supporting the arms) while you lean in to ‘sniff’ each cheek. In case you are equal in ages, you even it out – one persons arm goes under, the other over. Still leaning in for cheek sniffing.
After proper greetings are done, people are then sat down to do the proper celebration of the holiday. To eat as many buuz or dumplings as possible, sip on milk tea or evade numerous shots of vodka. The men usually pass around intricately designed snuff bottles and blue scarves are given to their elders. There are usually large platters of towering cookies with candies and dried curd that ornament each table at each home. People start to eat that once all the buuz are done, which usually takes a while. Actually there are so many buuz available, that PCVs informally host a Buuz Eating Contest, where PCVs see how many buuz they can eat in a 24 hour span. Last years record was 145 I believe. What does that person win? Large amounts of indigestion and the ‘honor’ of saying they were able to eat however many greasy dumplings in quick succession… Anyways, Tsagaan Sar is a celebration that lasts many days, with the first official day being a family affair, with any family in town usually going to the house of the oldest living relative. The remaining days are then reserved for visiting friends, and extended family. I will probably quiz my counterparts over the next couple days and they will tell me that they hosted over 100 people plus or visited 40 plus homes. All in a three days work.
As for my Tsagaan Sar… The first day – as was last year – was very chill. Several neighbors stopped by to say hi and sit for coffee, but as one of my Mongolian friends told me “You know the first day is for family… You can come over tomorrow!” . To which I will. Day 2 will be a day of visits. Day 1 was a nice chance to sleep in , finish a book, start a new book, explore my collection of Gilmore Girls episodes on my hard drive and have some nice alone time.
Not to say that PCVs didn’t get together. On Bituun , or Tsagaan Sar Eve ( which is also a thing) several of my sitemates came to my place to make quesadillas and enjoy cheesy goodness. So I can’t say I was a complete recluse.
I will also admit to myself that it was nice to have time for myself, mostly because I am admittedly tired. This past week we coordinated my aimags English Creative Writing Competition, in which 200 6th -12th graders participated. We were able to grade and read them over a weekend, all we have to do is hand out prizes and all important certificates sometime next week. So I will take this long weekend as being one much deserved.
So as this kicks off the Year of the Sheep ( I had to double check that) As the American Center for Mongolian Studies tells me ” The year of the Sheep is seen as a time for healing and stability after the chaos of 2014’s Horse year.This year is the year of the Wood Sheep or Goat. The year is symbolized by the color green, meaning new growth and renewal. The main theme for the next 13 months should be on intimacy, family and close friendships. It is a year to develop a gentle heart and open acceptance on all levels. Another aspect of the wood sheep is creativity; it is a time for art and the cultivation of beauty. The year of the sheep is a time to pick a direction and not give up or become discouraged because Sheep can only move forward”
I hope this finds you all well, and keep moving forward 😛 – V.