Annually Mongolians celebrate Tsagaan Sar or Mongolian Lunar New Year at the junction of winter and spring. The exact date depends on the lunar calendar. Usually, Mongolians celebrate it on a new moon day at the end of January or February for three days seeing off the winter end and welcoming a flourishing spring of the new year. It is a popular family holiday to visit parents, relatives, neighbors, and friends.
Tsagaan Sar Preperation
The holiday symbolizes a healthy and wealthy life. Therefore, people emphasize it, starting their preparations for Tsagaan Sar one month ahead. Families make several hundred to several thousand buuz (big dumplings) and bansh (small dumplings) to cook when their relatives, neighbors, and friends visit. The gers, animal barns, and yards must be as clean as possible. Women make new deels (a traditional dress) for each family member.
How do Mongolians celebrate Tsagaan Sar?
The Lunar New Year's Eve
The day before Tsagaan Sar is named “bituun” or no moon day. On this day, families put a feast of sheep rump, erect layers of traditional cookies on large plates by odd numbers decorating with candies and dairy products. There are fermented mare's milk beverage Airag, rice cooked with curd, steamed and boiled dumplings, and much more on the table. When it gets dark, people wear their finest clothes, sit around the table and eat as much as they can. The neighbors, relatives, and families also visit each other if they wish. Families put three pieces of ice and hay at the doorway for deity Baldan Lham and her mute because people believe that the deity visits families on the Tsagaan Sar Eve. You can see this custom when you spend Tsagaan Sar with families living in gers.
The First Day of Tsagaan Sar
On the first day of the first lunar month of spring, people get up before the sunrise, get dressed in their nicest clothes, and walk in the directions prescribed by the zodiac to start the new year in the right direction. It is thought to bring good luck, good health, and safety for the coming year. Next, men climb the nearest mountain or hill to greet the first sunrise of the Lunar New Year. Women boil milk tea and offer its best to earth and shrine before serving the family members. Next, put cooked large and small dumplings on the table. Afterward, the greeting ceremony starts. The eldest or hosts of the family sit at khoimor (opposite side of a door).
How do Mongolians greet during Tsagaan Sar?
When people greet, including the family members, both people extend their arms, turning their palms up. Extended arms of younger person support the elder at the elbows and say “Amar sain baina uu?,” meaning “how are you? The elder one says “mendee, amar sain uu?” meaning “fine, and you?” and an older person kiss the younger on both cheeks. Sometimes this action is done with Khadag - a symbolic blue scarf, through which they express their respect to each other. After the family greetings, families visit parents' homes, elders' homes, relatives' homes, friends' homes, and each other's homes in the community. First, the younger people visit elders’ homes to greet and are offered dumplings, milk tea, etc. This way, the holiday continues officially for three days, but in practice, the holiday continues longer if family members travel long distances to greet one another.