Tsagaan sar, the Mongolia’s Lunar new year is the biggest long-awaited holiday in Mongolia. It is widely celebrated throughout the country around January or February according to the combination of Solar-Lunar calendar that Mongolians use. It is a celebration of passing long harsh winter and welcoming a spring as well as welcoming new year. Furthermore, Tsagaan Sar is a family celebration as all relatives gather at the elders’ home to greet and wish all the best to each other for the following year. The festival lasts for 3-14 days depending on the region. It is non-working national holidays in Mongolia for 3 days.
Before 13th century, Mongols have been celebrating the lunar new year in autumn. From 13th century Mongols have started celebrating the Lunar New year in the first month of spring according to the Lunar and Solar calendar. According to Rashid Al Din’s "The Collected Works of Rashid", Great Chinggis Khan declared Tsagaan Sar as official celebration of Mongolia in 1216. According to Marco Polo’s travel note, Mongols were celebrating Tsagaan sar according to Shaman tradition and custom. Everyone wears white deel (traditional robe), and riding white horses as well as offering dairy products. This all symbolizes being peaceful and gracious to each other.
Mongolians prepare for Tsagaan Sar from almost a month ago. Preparing home to fix any broken parts, master cleaning of all parts of the home and prepare several hundreds to thousand dumplings for the feast. It is a tradition for Mongolians to greet new year with big feast table that signify prosperity and success in the following year. Feast table is prepared in the eve of Tsagaan sar. Main foods on the feast table to be offered to guest are Uuts (sheep loin), sweet set plate, large biscuits called Ul Boov and steamed dumplings. As for drinks Milk tea, Airag (Mare’s milk), and alcoholic beverages are put on the feast table.
In Tsagaan sar’s eve, there are several rituals that Mongols complete so as to bring good fortune for the coming year. Every families get prepared for Tsagaan sar by cleaning the house well. Candles are lit which symbolizes enlightenment and to illuminate the way of any spirits that might visit. Families put three chunks of ice outside the door for horse of Palden Lhamo – a Buddhist deity visit to every home. All family members gather this day and eat as much as they can to be full for the coming year. It is believed that if one staying hungry on this day will prophet hunger for the whole year. After the feast, family members play ankle bone game called Alag Melkhii.
In the first day of Tsagaan sar or first day of a new year, people wake up before the sunrise, wear their new Deel (traditional robe) and women of the family make new milk tea for everyone as well as for the spirits of the surrounding nature and Mountain. Family members greet with each first. During Tsagaan sar, the way of greeting is unique. The younger people vow to the elders and cross their hands under the elders’ hand while supporting their elbow and say Amar Baina uu? which is meaning “are you in peace?” The elder people then kisses the other on the both cheeks. After this greeting, people can continue conversation while exchanging snuff bottles which is also another way of greeting. After the family members greeted with each other, they start visiting their relatives from the eldest people. Visitors at family offer gifts to a greeting elder person and hosting family gives a present before visitors leave.
Tsagaan sar is not only a festival or celebration of welcoming new year but also it is a cultural heritage of Mongolians all over the world. This fantastic ceremony gives an opportunity to people to bond up with family and relative furthermore to strengthen their ties and relationship.
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