Kara and I will be posting a short series of blog posts to describe the biggest Mongolian holiday of the year, Tsagaan Sar. First, I'll give a little background of the holiday. The direct translation of the name means White (Tsagaan) Month (Sar) or White Moon (because "sar" has two meanings). The event is officially three days long and corresponds with the beginning of the Lunar New Year. This year the holiday fell on February 14-16. Much like the Chinese New Year, there are particular animals that represent each of 12 years - and this year is the Year of the White Tiger.
Though the holiday is officially three days long, it typically lasts about a week, but in the countryside it's not rare to see it last for three weeks or more. I personally visited homes for six straight days (though I will have everyone know that we still did greetings and ate traditional food at work today, some 10 days after the holiday began). However long the celebration, it involves preparing and eating a lot food, visiting friends and family, and exchanging gifts. Also, the day before the Lunar New Year is called Bituun. Typically everyone gets together with family that night to eat as much as they possibly can, and then walk up our local mountain to light candles and place them in the rocks. The following morning, some families will get up early, walk up the mountain again, and watch the sunrise on the first morning of Tsagaan Sar. Welcome White Month!