Tsagaan Sar. Mongolia. New Year festival. Mongolian New Year.
TRIP TO MONGOLIA TOURS
INFORMATION FOR TRAVELERS
For Mongolians, the first holiday to celebrate the New Year is Tsagaan Sar.
There is a common practice that the people around the world celebrate the New Year and farewell to the passing year. The oriental people celebrate the New Year a bit late than the Europeans. Since the XIII century, the Mongols used to celebrate the New Year in autumn and called it originally "White Month".
From 1206 or the Year of the White Tiger when the Great Mongolian State was proclaimed, Tsagaan Sar or New Year Celebration has moved to spring. On the first occasion of Tsagaan Sar, Chinggis Khaan awarded 88 persons of outstanding merits, who had significantly contributed to the deeds of the State. Since then, it becomes a tradition that khaan, or later
the State Head awards persons deserving merits and remits the criminals. Tsagaan Sar is the celebration of getting through the winter in plenty and seeing in spring, as well as it is everybody's Birthday celebration.
The preparations for Tsagaan Sar Celebration are made long ahead and there is no worries about overload. While Tsagaan Sar approaches, people get prepared with new clothes, clean up their dwellings and pens, and get ready with small gifts and confectionary "to pay sweetener" of the guests.
Mainly, the 30th of the last month of a lunar calendar year is called "bituun". When stars come out in the sky, every household begins preparing food. Titbits are placed on a
dish, an uneven number of "Boov", a type of pastry made in a mould are arranged in 3,5,7 layers. This is a matter of consideration of the rules that people's sufferings and happiness take turns.
There are some specific customs practiced by people in the evening of "bituun". The households prepare dumpling-type of food such as buuz and bansh, both are meat dumplings (buuz steamed, bansh boiled), cook an intact sheep's head with the chin-bone and tongue still in place, make offerings to the God as a sacrifice and break open a marrow-bone. This is called "bituurekh". In bituun one needs "to eat to repletion" or to have enough food. This symbolizes plenty of food and full belly in the coming New Year. In bituun households place on the food-table a sheep's carcase and cow breast-bone. The carcase tail is to be decorated by butter extracted from milk by churning or from cream by heating and its leftovers.
Other pieces of meat need to be arranged according to the practiced rules.
The neighbors exchange bituun food. Everybody eats, the elderly sprinkle an offering of spirit. Children and youth enjoy themselves while playing ankle-bones.
On this day people avoid to wander around going from ger to ger (traditional felt dwelling of the Mongols), to beat their children, to get dogs whining, to talk to each other loudly from
inside and outside ger, to go out of ger with one's mouth full and without wiping it off, and to take medicine without being seriously sick.
In the first morning of Tsagaan Sar young and old alike get up early, take some food, tea, table or mat etc and go to "ovoo", cairn erected as a shrine or to an eminence, and have ceremony such as praying to the heavens and making a ritual start in a prescribed direction at New Year. From there, they go to give New Year greetings to their parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and neighbors in order of age. People greet each other in a unique way. The younger people vow to the elderly and cross their hands under the hands of the older people supporting their elbow, with an offer of "Hadag", a blue scarf as token of respect.
Thereafter, the guests have a seat and exchange snuff-bottles in greeting and say: have you got through the winter in plenty and seeing at spring well. With these traditional new year greetings they encourage each other.
When the elderly offer a round of drinking and singing, long-songs "Bogd Chinggis Khaan", "Heavens Wind", Stupa Height" are performed in chorus and a couple of drinks can be consumed. Then the guests say "many visits ahead, long distances to go, horses get frosted", and mount their horses to continue their visits.
Another practice is people observe signs of the coming year from dawn till dark during the first day of Tsagaan Sar. For example, a slow break of day at dawn and crystal-clear cloudless sky at sunrise symbolizes a fortunate year for babies and little ones.
People avoid to do sewing, to stay overnight away home, to weep, to quarrel, to throw ash and rubbish everywhere, to go for water, to lie down and sleep during day time.
Historically, Tsagaan Sar has been always the most honored celebration as it has to do with all, young and old alike.
Prof. J.Boldbaatar Academician, Sc.D
"MIAT", inflight magazine 2007/1
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