Saikhan shineleerei!

Bonus blog post this week because we have now hit the Lunar New Year celebration in Mongolia, also known as Tsagaan Sar (“white moon/month”)! A friend shared the following video on Facebook, and since it’s such a thorough explanation of the holiday–foods, rituals, etc–I wanted to share it here with our readers.

Some interesting points from the video are listed below with their correlating time in the video:

1:22 – The number of layers on your family’s ul boov (“shoe sole cake”) can also relate to the number of generations of a family, who is hosting (younger generations have fewer layers), or even what position of government is hosting the celebration. Like, the president might have nine layers. Also, odd numbered layers are important, which relates to good luck.

1:33 – It’s tradition to pass around snuff bottles as part of the greeting time. You are not obligated to inhale the snuff, but giving the bottle a quick sniff from the outside is acceptable.

2:48 – Some of the decorations on the ul boov include boortsog, aaruul, sugar cubes, and fresh dairy like butter and mild cheese. Some people will put chocolates or candies on as well. It’s pretty normal for people to pick off these little goodies throughout the holiday during visits. Hosting families will replenish them between visitors.

4:28 – You can see the traditional Tsagaan Sar greeting, which includes supporting elders’ arms and wishing them peace. There is also a part where you lean in and touch cheeks–similar to the French bise. Some people sniff the air next to you and others might kiss your cheek. I usually stick to sniffing. 😉 The scarves that people are holding are a sign of respect. Also, if you visit someone’s home for Tsagaan Sar, it’s important to greet people from oldest to youngest to show respect. (And if the youngest are younger than you, they will support your arms during the greeting.)

9:00 – Peep that yummy milk tea!

10:07 – Just a great view of the full spread in its ger context. 🙂

10:52 – Some typical side dishes are a pickled carrot and veggie salad (foreground) and a variety of dried fruits (towards the back of the table).

12:36 – The whole sheep is a big part of the Tsagaan Sar feast! Here you can see them cooking the sheep tail (yes, that is mostly fat, which is what gives a lot of flavor to Mongolian dishes) with a blowtorch.

So what do you think? We’ve had the privilege of celebrating this holiday with colleagues and friends in the past, and it’s always a fun time to get together, share food, and have fun starting of the new year. Here’s a post from our first Tsagaan Sar celebration in Mongolia!

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