Photos: Happy Tsagaan Sar!

While Tsagaan Sar 2012 is officially over, the celebrations are continuing over the weekend. So while this post isn’t as prompt as I’d like, it’s not entirely late either.

A Brief Explanation of Tsagaan Sar

Tsagaan Sar means White Moon (or White Month). It is marks the first day of the new year according to the lunar calendar. While similar to Chinese New Year, the date is almost always different and the method of celebration is completely unique. Mongolians mark the holiday with a visit to the Buddhist, temple where they pray for success and health in the coming year, performing various rituals at sunrise to welcome the new year, and visiting the homes of elders where they drink milk tea and vodka, eat dumplings and lamb and catch up.

A family at Gandan Monastery on the morning of the first day of Tsagaan Sar

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Video: Making Buuz

The Mongolian annual festival of Tsaagan Sar (White Moon) commences tomorrow on February 22, when Mongolians will usher in the new lunar year – the year of the male water dragon. The three day festival is one of the most important in Mongolia and symbolizes the beginning of spring.

In the week or two leading up to the holiday women prepare as many 1000 buuz (steamed meat dumplings), which they keep frozen until the holiday. Families spend the day before Tsaagan Sar, known asBituun, cleaning their homes, cars and livestock to start the new year fresh.

Over the three days of Tsaagan Sar, families will visit each other, greeting others with the phrase Amar baina uu? or ‘Are you well-rested?’. When new guests arrive, hosts will cook the frozen buuz and serve vodka and milk tea.

Here’s a video showing how to make traditional Mongolian dumplings: