Mongolian Students about Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian New Year)

Ankhiluun Davaa (lower row on the right) did a big new year's party at her learning center in Chinggis
Ankhiluun Davaa (lower row on the right) did a big new year’s party at her learning center in Chinggis
New Year is celebrated in many different ways. In Mongolia, it is called “tsagaan sar” and takes place around a month after the holiday is celebrated in the Western hemisphere. Two students of advanced English classes at our learning center in Arvaikheer, Mongolia describe how they perceive and celebrate tsagaan sar.

Tsagaan Sar
It is always interesting to talk about our traditional holiday called tsagaan sar. It used to be a herder holiday many years ago. The Mongolian government announced tsagaan sar as a public holiday in the 1980s. Tsagaan sar is celebrated at different days that change each year because of the lunar calendar. It has to be first day of spring. Tsagaan sar means white moon in English. In other words it is believed as a holiday after the harsh winter.

The time before tsagaan sar is always very busy: we clean up home and yard, prepare new clothes for greeting, buy gifts and make at least 1500 buuz (wheat pancake with minced meat).

Now I would like to talk about the three days tsagaan sar lasts. The previous eve is called bituun. On this day people have to eat until they are full. The main dish is buuz and meat loafs. Milk tea and airag are served to customers. The white color is important so that tsagaan sar dishes are airag and dairy products. Wrestling competition is on TV this day and we are looking forward to hearing winners of tsagaan sar wrestling.

The first day is shiniin negen. Especially for host of family seeing new year sun will bring good fortune. All people have to greet old people early in the morning. We have also another custom about greeting the husband or wife; pregnant woman don’t greet each other. When we greet we hold a blue fabric that is called Hadag. Young people hold dear hands under old ones. When men greet they change each other’s snuff bottle. For kids tsagaan sar is the time they get gifts from every family.

The second and third days are the same. During these days, people are always busy with visiting their relatives and friends. Finally, tsagaan sar is the main winter holiday. Many people believe that if tsagaan sar has been abundant and joyful the following year will be great.

Traditional and modern: Community Hero Battuul Alexander (center) with some of her students dressed up for the celebration
Traditional and modern: Community Hero Battuul Alexander (center) with some of her students dressed up for the celebration
Tsagaan sar in my life
For every Mongolians, tsagaan sar is one of the most important and biggest national, traditional holidays. I would like to share my experience about how my family celebrates tsagaan sar. I think this celebration has so much customs and beliefs than your forecast. Basically the main symbolism of the holiday is everything becoming white, like milk. But it there is more meaning than these words. So this Mongolian new year.

I think the preparation of tsagaan sar is very difficult. Before the holiday we must clean everything in your home and prepare about [literally!] thousands of dumplings, special meals and of course desserts. It so hard but it makes us more happy and looking forward to tsagaan sar. During these works, we should contemplate the past and removing bad memories from our minds. Then hoping for the future and a better year to come.

Tsagaan sar eve we call Bituun. This day has a lot of taboos and ethics. In Bituun we should prepare ourselves like a new person. Our heart should be innocent and our mind should be bright, too.

As for me and my family we celebrate it greatly. My grandparents are the eldest in my big family. So we visit their home. Then we visit our uncle and aunts. And you need to invite guests and receive them. Never forget to let your guest go without little gifts! We have to always respect each other. There is some responsibility about ethics and rituals of holiday.

At last but not least tsagaan sar is every Mongolians and my favorite celebration. This day we are proud of to being Mongolian and making delightful our new year.
Happy tsagaan sar and best wishes!

2 thoughts on “Mongolian Students about Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian New Year)

  • Stephen Thoemmes says:

    Thank you so much for your article. I live in the U.S. but visit Mongolia as often as I can. I feel it to be my karmic home.
    I will be spending 5 weeks in Darkhan teaching at a local college, and have been invited to participate in Tsagaan Sar activities. This post helps me with more information.
    All my respect. Stephen

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