New Year with Mongols

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Цаган Сар, монгольский Новый год

Relationship of the Mongols and Kazakhs – two great peoples of the great steppe, is difficult to overestimate. Having a clear cultural and genetic relationship, using the same methods of managing, worshipping the same historical characters, Mongols and Kazakhs have one important fundamental distinction. 

The first people – Buddhists to these days (with all subsequent circumstances), and the second people – are Muslims (with the resulting circumstances). That’s why, for example, the Kazakhs have the Orient calendar with its 12-year «animal style» and the New Year of the Oriental calendar never celebrated -instead it had come from the West - Nauryz.

Nauryz is celebrated at the end of March and still looms on the horizon, and the Mongols year already begins in February. The Mongols traditional new year holiday named «Tsagaan sar» – «White month». According to the values of the color symbolism – the white color in Mongolia, as the red in China meant happiness.

On new year's eve were cleaned yurts, clothes. During preparation people tried to «break down» something «old». At the worst, if there was nothing to break, uncork a bottle of milk vodka. Broken so «old» paved the way to «new».

Цаган Сар, монгольский Новый год

And in the morning began the trip from yurt to yurt (on foot, even at close range, respecting Mongols did not go) with congratulations. Each new guest met by plenty festive meal, carrying not only gastronomic but also magical function. More abundant table on the first day of the year means that more plentiful will be the coming year.

Boiled mutton, nostrils and eyes in melted butter, steam dumplings buuz), скуфь (гryum), dry cottage cheese (arul), fresh soft cheese (byaslag), and, of course, favorite New Year drink replaces champagne – milky brew (archi) – these are just some components of traditional holiday dastarkhan.

At the beginning of the feast a master with a sharp knife cut meat from the lamb rump and personally entertained everyone – from the oldest to the most venerable and young. Every guest, so as not to offend a host, in response had to drink three cups of kumys and three cups of vodka. At this official part ends and begins festivity with songs and jokes, rhymes. Mongols have always been very fond of these entertaintments.

In the «Soviet times» New Year in Mongolia was officially celebrated on 1 of January – along with the entire socialist community, a Christmas tree and Santa Claus. And on New Year's Eve, «Tsagaan Sar», took place at the day of farmer.

But now everything is back to square one, and, like, many countries in Asia, the Mongols have now two official New Year's holiday. In Kazakhstan, officially there are also two – on 1 of January and Nauryz (March 21-23).

Цаган Сар, монгольский Новый год

Our reference 

«Tsagaan Sar» Festival dates back to ancient national and religious traditions of the Mongolian people. It is a symbol of renewal of human and nature, openness and purity of thoughts, hopes and good expectations. Initially it considered the holiday of dairy products and celebrated in  autumn . At this time ended preparations for future  milk  products, which are consumed during the holidays.

Grandson  of Chingiz-Khan  –  Great Khan     of Yuan dynasty   Kublai Khan  moved the celebration  of New Year  from autumn to  end of winter  under the influence of Chinese astrology . So, the Mongolian Sagaalgan was timed to coincide with the beginning of the year for a twelve-year cycle. Marco Polo, contemporary of Kublai Khan,  witness of the holiday describes the court «white holiday» as follows:

«Theirs year begins in February; the Great Khan and all his subjects are celebrating it as follows: by custom all dressed in white, men and women, just as they can. White clothing is worshipped them as happy, that’s why they dressed in white, that during the whole year will be happiness and prosperity ... Bring them great gifts ... that during the whole year the Great Khan will have a lot of wealth and he will have joy and fun. I'll tell you more, princes and knights, and all the people give each other the white stuff, hug, fun, feasting, and this is done in order to live happy and good all year round.

On this day, know more, give to the Great Khan over one hundred thousand famous and expensive white horses. On the same day are breeded five thousand elephants under white cloths with embroidered animals and birds; each elephant on his back has two beautiful and expensive caskets with utensils of the Great Khan and the rich white harness for this white gathering. It is breeded great multitude of camels; they are also under the blankets and endorsed by all necessary for the grant. And elephants and camels pass in front of the Great Khan, and such beauty nowhere to be seen!

... And when the great emperor review all gifts, are placed tables, and all sit down for them ... And after dinner magicians come and amuse the court that you have already heard before; when this is over, all come to their home».

Цаган Сар, монгольский Новый год

After  expulsion of the Mongols from China  in  XIV century  tradition of celebrating Tsagaan Sar in late winter was brought into  Mongolia . Consequently, the name of the festival – «white» – has lost its original «milk» value, and acquired a more general sense. In the name of «White Month» reflected color symbolism common to   Mongolian peoples, according to which the  white  – a symbol of holiness and purity – is associated with happiness and prosperity.

With the onset of widespread of  Tibetan Buddhism  in the environment of the Mongolian people in the  XVII century  Mongolian Tsagaan Sar included the Buddhist rituals and mythology.

«Tsagaan Sar» Festival now celebrated not only in Mongolia but also in Buryatia, Kalmykia, Tuva and Altai Republic, which are the subjects of the Russian Federation.


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