Another month has flown away and it’s time for blogpost number 4. I have now done four months in Mongolia [at the moment I am at learning center Mandalgovi], the autumn has been kind with less wind and many days with a blue sunny sky and not even that cold weather. However the winter have now proper arrived, even to desert, and layer on layer is my new life motto. I’m writing this blog post 9 o’clock in the morning and its -23°C outdoors but luckily no wind, so not to bad! This weekend I celebrated New Years in the head capital Ulaanbaatar on the main square. For the 45 minutes we were there the wine I had in a plastic bottle in my pocket turned into ice!
Is there christmas in Mongolia?
The main question I had from my friends and family the latest month is do people celebrate Christmas and New Years in Mongolia? What is their religion? So let’s have a short lesson about Mongolian traditions. The biggest religion in Mongolia is Buddhism (around 53%) and 38.6% is non-religious according to Wikipedia. So there is no religious reason for celebrating Christmas. In mid-February Tsagaan Tsar is celebrated which is the Mongolian New Year. If you ask anyone in Mongolia if they celebrate Christmas most of the Mongolians will answer no, but they definitely celebrate New Year’s. Trust me I know, in the latest 2 and a half week I’ve been on 4 official New Year celebrations. Bigger companies, schools, kinder gardens and social groups will all arrange their own New Year Party. These parties can happen weeks before New Year and potential even after the new year has started. The 31st December most Mongolians would celebrate with their families with a big dinner, a Christmas tree and Christmas decorations as well as the Blue Mongolian Santa giving presents to the children. Mongolia Santa tends to visit the arranged New Year’s celebrations as well if there is kids joining the party. At 12 o’clock on the 31st they would watch fireworks to celebrate the start of the new year. So I would say; yes Mongolian people do celebrate both Christmas and New Year’s. They just celebrate both celebrations at the same time, several times throughout December with a blue Santa instead of a red Santa. If you wonder why the Mongolian New Year celebration are influenced by Russian traditions and comes from when Mongolia was a part of the Soviet.
Celebrating christmas in Mongolia
I have really enjoyed the celebrations throughout December. Especially the New Year’s Party we arranged for our BOOKBRIDGE students on the 24th of December (Swedish Christmas Day). I was surrounded by around 40 kids and teenagers from 8 years old to 16 years old all excited for a fun evening. We had performance on stage, once again I found myself singing Britney Spears – Baby One More Time, but I also participated in the snow girl dance and the Baby Shark song which is a great song if you haven’t heard it.
We mixed the performances with Disco dance where I was dancing until I was soaked with sweat. After the performances it was time for an Olympics in Christmas Games. We ended the evening with a visit by the Mongolian Santa who gave gift bags to all the students and then it was finally time to eat our BOOKBRIDGE cake. The children really made my Christmas, and even if it felt weird to not celebrate with my family in Sweden and my new born little niece, I had a great Christmas Eve and I feel very welcome and privileged to celebrate with the wonderful children and teenagers of Mongolia.
Living in the capital vs. living on the countryside
As I said before I celebrated New Year’s Eve in the head capital. I do enjoy life in the desert even if Ulaanbaatar is a sweet weekend escape. I’ve been enjoying all the good restaurants and food in UB, the many bars and night clubs where you feel as a movie star since dancing with the foreigners is very popular and the great company of a big group of Peace Corp Volunteers and new found friends.
As usual life here has many good things but also many bad things. First of all the heavily polluted air during the cold winter months. The Air Quality Index (AQI) should be between 0-50 to not have any impact on your health. During the weekend is was over 990 in Ulaanbaatar which is extremely high and extremely dangerous. Second on our way back home from a night club 3.30 in the morning there was a 10-year old boy doing everything he could to sell me cigarettes. He was standing in the taxi door to prevent me from closing the door all to get some extra money. I though my heart would break. No children should be out on the streets at 3.30 in the morning selling cigarettes to foreigners in the coldest capital of the world or anywhere else. Let’s all always fight for given the children the rights they deserve! All children should have a warm bed to sleep in and not spending their nights on the streets.
To end this post in a happy mood I want to wish you all a good start to year! I wish you a year full of experience because I’m sure that my year will be full of new experience and I’m sure that my students here will continue to fill my life with joy and happiness.