Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tsagaan Sar Explanation

Tsagaan Sar is the Mongolian New Year and means 'White Moon'. For those of you who follow Tibetan Buddhism, yes it is at the same time as Losar—the majority of Mongolians are Tibetan Buddhists. The tradition on Tsagaan Sar is to visit your elder relatives whose children will serve you airag (fermented mare's milk), buuz (steamed meat buns), salads, vodka, and milk tea. You will also note the large full roasted lamb sitting on the table and large stack of cakes piled in odd numbers to represent the good and the bad (always ending with the good). There are traditional greetings which include extending your arms out and supporting the arms of your elders, sniffing at each cheek, exchanging and using snuff from lovely little bottles, and drinking and eating. I was graciously hosted by three families and the following three posts have short explanations and photos of each family. Imagine being a herder, living far away from your friends and family. Coming together and paying visits to your elders is from what I understand not only a fun tradition, but if you are living out in the countryside (unlike the families shown here) the holiday could be a survival mechanism as well. How are your sheep fairing this winter? Saikhan shinelerei and happy year of the ox.

Tsagaan Sar #1: Sanaser's family

I visited Sanaser's family (he teaches in my department and is the youngest-looking 'cowboy') with Tazaki-san who is a Japanese professor in my department. The below photos include several of Sanaser's siblings, his parents, grandmother, aunts, and uncles. His father, a former member of parliament and Olympian, gave me copies of his books on Mongolian labour markets, which I look forward to reading once my Mongolian is, uh, improved.

Tsagaan Sar #2: Oto's mother's house

Oto (he is in the ger camp photos) teaches in my department and he invited me to his mother's house for a traditional Tsagaan Sar. She is a lovely woman with many children and grandchildren. The very adorable boy and girl are Oto's son and daughter. The woman in the photo with me and Oto's mother is my boss Sara who was serving as my translator and cultural guide (as usual).

Tsagaan Sar #3: Khongor's family

Khongor is my student whose family lives in a very nice house outside of Ulaanbaatar more or less in the countryside. The food was delicious and his family were quite entertaining. I am also including photos of the drive to Khongor's house because it gives (hopefully) a good sense of the vastness and contrasts of Ulaanbaatar's outerlying areas.

Zaisan Tolgoi (Soviet Military Monument) with students on a mountain just outside Ulaanbaatar

Sukhbaatar Square with Students

Natural History Museum with Students