White Moon

Well, you missed it!  The chance to put on your best Mongolian duds and participate in a non-stop eat-a-thon!

Last week was a special week in Mongolia. Everybody dressed up in their traditional Mongolian dels (coats) and partied like there was no tomorrow! It was all part of Tsagaan Sar (White Moon), one of the most important holidays of the year.

White Moon is a time to spend with family, beginning with visits to the oldest family members – usually parents or grandparents. Upon arrival, each family member is greeted with a kiss or a sniff on each cheek. The older person puts his or her arms on top of the younger person’s arms as they embrace. At V.E.T. Net I had to put my arms on top of the arms of approximately 70 staff members, because nobody at V.E.T. is older than me!

Every family we visited had been making holiday preparations for weeks. Prior to the festival, families make thousands of “buuz” and freeze them outside in the frigid temperatures. “Buuz” are steamed dumplings, filled with chopped mutton and various seasonings. Stacks of hard bread adorned tables.  Prior to meals, snuff bottles were exchanged.  The main course consisted of “uuts”, which are whole sheep that have been steamed – fat tail, head, and all.   And yes, the eating was pretty much non-stop:  As each succeeding family member was visited during the holiday, guests were expected to enjoy the meal as if it were the first meal they were eating!

Tsagaan Sar is much like the secular Christmas celebrations found in America and other countries around the world. In the past, the celebration included various Buddhist activities.  But today – just as in other secular celebrations – the holiday focuses more on family and food, rather than on the religion from which the holiday originated.