Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tsaagan Sar sunrise

Greeting the new year
On the morning of Tsaagan, Mongolians climb to the peaks of the mountains and hilltops surrounding Ulaanbaatar and greet the New Year when the sun rises over the horizon. They raise their arms to the rising sun. Culturally it is frowned on for women to do this climb. There were a few women, very few, doing this Tsaagan Sar ritual. 

Friendly host at the top - notice the traditional shoes

Elder Stewart and a few missionaries made this climb on Tsaagan Sar. He took some phenomenal pictures.
Sunrise - notice the cluster of viewers on the lower peaks

We were recovering from our bout with pneumonia and didn't make the climb. Maybe next year I will join the festivities.
A group of LDS missionaries also greeting the sunrise
There were people who hauled wood to the top of the hills and mountains and made small fires to keep warm while they waited for sunrise. 
A Buddhist shrine on Tsaagan Sar
Buddhists also build shrines on tops of mountains as a focal point for rituals. On Tsaagan Sar, some worshipers leave food and cast milk on the shrine. 
Three Mongolians in their deels waiting for sunrise
From times of old, Mongols honor Mother Earth and Father Sky by giving thanks by casting small amounts of milk (Mother gives her gifts to the young) to the four corners of the sky.   
Raising their outstretched arms to the sun

Mongols believe that milk is pure as it is white and without blemish. They offer it as a blessing to God. When someone is going on a long journey, their mother will usually cast milk to the sky and pray for a safe trip, to keep them safe and to bring him or her back home safely.
A ger district at dawn
The same is is true for special occasions like weddings or other special times. That is why Mongolians call this holiday Tsaagan Sar (white month). 
Coal fires from the Ger Districts near Ulaanbaatar
The communists tried to ban Tsaagan Sar and replace it by renaming the holiday, "Collective Herder's Day". Rural Mongolians, nomads, would relish this holiday as a way of reuniting their families and making sure that cousins, aunts and uncles would meet at least once a year and get to know each other. It was also to show respect and honor their elderly. 

City residents, mostly under the watchful eye of the communists, would be punished if they took time off from work to travel and meet their relatives. The rural tradition continued to flourish under the guise of "Collective Herder's Day." After the 1990 Democratic Revolution in Mongolia, the new government reinstated Tsaagan Sar and it is Mongolia's number one holiday.  

A couple greeting the new year together - she was one of the very few women on the mountain

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know about this ritual of greeting the sun. It looks cold, but spring is around the corner! The picture of the ger district with the smoke from fires brings back memories.