Tsagaan Sar, Mongolian New Year

Tsagaan Sar, traditional nationwide celebration of the Mongolian New YearThe Tsagaan Sar or White Month (Lunar New Year) is the biggest and oldest festival in Mongolia inherited many centuries ago. In 1206, when Temujin (Temuujin) or Genghis Khan was proclaimed the Great Khan of all Mongols, he held an elaborate feast on the last day of winter, and decided to make this the New Year where the holiday has been celebrated ever since. Mongolia's Tsagaan Sar or New Year falls on different dates each year between late January and early March.

Tsagaan Sar is a traditional nationwide celebrated holiday, where every member of the family prepares for it starting a month before, even a child helps to make Buuz (steamed dumpling), because during the festival a family usually makes about a thousand Buuz, and women traditionally make new outfits which are called Deel for their family members to meet new year with new clothes.

The holiday is divided into Bituun, the last day of the year where there is a half moon; Shiniin Negen the next day is the first day of the New Year i.e. the first day of the first spring month and the third day as the last day of the Tsagaan Sar feast.

On Bituun day, each family prepares the Tsagaan Sar food and fill the festive table with various dishes and traditionally Kheviin Boov and Uuts must be included on the festive table and Bituun festivity starts when it gets dark outside. It is said, that on Bituun evening the horse of the deity, the Lkham Burkhan or Palden Lhamo could drink as the deity is believed to visit every household on this day, so every family puts three pieces of ice on the top right of the door and also puts a small dried bush on the top left of the door of the Ger to avoid bad things to enter the home. Traditionally, Mongolians settle all issues and repay all debts from the old year by this day. The most competitive and awaited event on Bituun is the Mongolian traditional wrestling tournament among top wrestlers with State and Aimag titles, because wrestlers compete not for new ranking titles like during National Naadam Festival, they strive to challenge who is the strongest man and they believe their achievements performed at the last event of the of the passing year would be followed throughout the new year.

On Shiniin Negen, people are expected to get up early before sunrise and take their first steps in the direction dictated by the year they were born which is called Zug Gargakh, as advised according to their astrology. Firstly, children greet their parents which is called Zolgokh, but the ritual greeting is never performed between husband and wife, who are considered as one person. People show respect to their elders and relatives visit eachother with the eldest first by offering a Khadag with outstretched hands and exchanges with greetings.

After the greeting, elders exchange snuffboxes and hosts serve their guests with milk tea first followed by Tsagaalga (rice flavored with butter, sugar and grapes), then meat from Uuts (steamed lamb) and Buuz (steamed dumpling) or Bansh (boiled dumpling), also other meals and beverages are served as well as Airag (fermented mare's milk).

During the Tsagaan Sar holiday mongolians visits the Gandan Monastery attending Buddhist spiritual and ritual ceremony.

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