Saturday, February 9, 2013

Getting ready for Tsaagan Sar

Milk products and sweets on sale for Tsaagan Sar
Engaged again. We were fully engaged teaching English this week but with fewer and fewer students as the week progressed as our students were either attending conferences or preparing for Tsaagan Sar. Preparing for Tsaagan Sar requires a lot of house cleaning, food and present shopping and food preparation, similar to our preparations for Christmas.   I took a back seat role to Darlene in the lessons but I still had my teaching segment. 

We are 80 percent back to normal but we are babying ourselves a little in terms of only doing necessary activities

Shopping. We did go shopping on Friday.  We hadn't done major shopping together since November. We found and bought two bottles of Pace Salsa this week - a real treasure. Our shopping trips last 2 1/2 hours and involve six different stores. Our driver, Baatar, carries our purchases out to his van as we check out of each store. Four couples usually make this trip so we end up with lots of groceries. Baatar keeps everything separate somehow. 
One table of game players after our Taco Salad feast

Senior couples pre-Tsaagan Sar get-together. The senior couples met for a Taco Salad potluck on Saturday night. We all miss Mexican food in Mongolia so we do our own.  We played games afterward. We enjoy these social times together. President and Sister Clark were out of town and couldn't join us. This was our first outing socially in over a month.  
Scrabble players - a new couple, the Englands joined us. He has a badge on and Sister England is in the blue sweater.
Tsagaan Sar or White Month is one of Mongolia's two major holidays. In 1206 at the founding of the country of Mongolia, Ghenghis Khan moved the fall harvest celebration to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It was to celebrate new life such as fresh grass and baby animals being born. It coincides with the beginning of the Lunar New Year, occurring generally in late January or during February.
Darlene looking at Tsaagan Sar products on sale at Sky supermarket

It is also a time to have a new beginning, to reflect on the past and to make plans for the future. Mongolians prepare for the feasting of Tsagaan Sar many weeks in advance, buying and preparing food, cleaning and decorating their gers. Many Mongolian people will dress in deels (traditional Mongolian dress costumes) during Tsaagan Sar.
Last minute shoppers tasting holiday breads and sweets

To mark the festival, Mongolians purge their bodies and minds of all that is bad and start their lives afresh. They pay off old debts from the previous year.

Most of all, they gather together to express respect to their elders, relatives and friends, reconfirming their social bonds. Families gather together, to celebrate and eat traditional food such as buuz (meat dumplings), uuts (grilled sheep’s tail), Ul boov (pastry), yak’s milk and rice.

The celebration begins the night (Bituun) before the Lunar New Year with a lavish meal for the immediate family. Mongolians believe that if you begin the New Year with a full stomach, then good things will surely follow.
Mongolians tend to overspend for this holiday like we do for Christmas
The first day of Tsaagan Sar they will go to visit their closest family members, usually in order of age, offering the traditional Tsagaan Sar greeting. The second eldest member of the family will stand arms outstretched, palms upwards and covered by a khadag, (a piece of blue silk), then will grasp their elder’s elbows supportively, and then the two will touch their cheeks together. This continues until everybody has been greeted in order of age, and all gifts are exchanged.

The value of gifts is unimportant to the ceremony; consideration is the important factor. Traditionally older people are offered khadags and younger people sweets, according to custom strong drinks are only offered to the over 40’s.

People will sing songs and play games in their gers as they welcome and greet their guests.  Following greetings, more food is placed on the tables and the eating and drinking starts over.

During the second day of Tsagaan Sar, Mongolians will visit their friends’ houses, continuing the process of greetings, eating and drinking. On the third day they will gather together in their workplaces for more of the same. 

We will make visits next week and will show you Tsaagan Sar hospitality and greetings. 

The gers are mostly on hillsides making water transport difficult

Water hauling in the Ger Districts. Elder Stewart took these fascinating pictures of people hauling water in the Ger Districts. The lack of indoor plumbing is the greatest hardship people face in the Ger Districts. 
Everybody does their part

1 comment:

  1. Glad to read that you have both recovered. Wow, what a long bout with illness. Your stories and pictures are fascinating, but most amazing is your dedication and endurance! Elder Farnsworth is in Samara, Russia, now-just seems like a hop, skip, and snowy hill away.