Whilst our Chinese friends are celebrating the New Year this weekend, any celebrations in Mongolia are subdue or almost nonexistent. This is because the Mongolians get to celebrate a New Year of their own in a couple of weeks’ time.
Despite a very significant influences coming to Mongolia both from the north (Russia) and the south (China), Mongolia has over centuries developed a set of very distinct and unique festivals and celebrations, Tsagaan Sar being one the highlights on the festivities calendar.
Tsagaan Sar (the Mongolian Lunar New Year, or, literarily, the White Moon) is the first day of the year according to the lunar calendar (so its incidence changes every year, similarly to Easter Monday). It is widely celebrated by Mongols and the Arctic and Siberian people. This year it falls on 27 February 2017.
The celebrations take three days when the Mongols wear their beautiful, traditional costumes and spend time eating buuz (steamed meat dumplings), drinking vodka and visiting their friends and families, starting at the house of the eldest family member. According to my colleagues, it is a very homely celebration, giving everyone something to look forward to during the long, winter months.
In preparation for Tsagaan Sar, many families venture out to purchase the necessary supplies, including a new deel and gifts for the family. Last weekend I had a chance to visit a Tsagaan Sar market and marvel at the multitude of local produce and specialities.