My friend Danzka invited me to come watch the first sunrise of the year with him and some his childhood friends. Driving to Bogd Khan National Park adjacent to Ulaanbaatar, we hiked to an ovoo and waited for sunrise. As the sun came close to peaking over the horizon, the Mongolians I was with began yelling “Oooooo haaaay!” as if to coax the sun over the mountains. As it peaked over the horizon, we stretched our arms out to absorb the sun’s energy and make wishes for the coming year. It was a beautiful way to start the year.
Tsagaan Sar means “White Moon” and takes place on the first new moon following the winter solstice. It is considered one of the most important Mongolian holidays as some families take more than a week to visit each relative in their entire extended family. Many people will buy new a deel, a traditional overcoat, just for the holiday.
Visiting each household, guests are treated with Mongolian dumplings called buuz, mutton, and vodka. Many households will make around one thousand dumplings for the holiday. Guests are given a gift, usually something small, as they leave. For example, I received some socks, a couple of chocolate bars and some other candy, some hand cream, and credits for my phone. After you have visited someone’s house, they are then expected to come and visit your house. Many Mongolian families are quite large, which is why the holiday can end up taking so long.
I spent three days visiting ten households. It was exhausting, but a lot of fun. I’m definitely ready to take a break from eating buuz for a little while.
For more information about the specifics of the holiday, here’s a link to the Wikipedia page.
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