The Lunar New Year, in case you were unaware, is a big deal in Asia. Huge. In Mongolia, it is a particularly big deal. In the days leading up to the first night of Tsagaan Sar, or White Month, or Lunar New Year, you will see frantic housewives cleaning their homes, top to bottom. You will see frenzied crowds pushing their way through markets to buy food, gifts, and other accruements for the impending celebration. Households take out loans to fund the festivities, which usually include thousands of meat-filled dumplings, towers of bread and sugar, and gifts for all the visitors. During Tsagaan Sar, the host gives gifts to the guests, which usually is extended family, sometimes friends.
Some debate the exact dates for when to celebrate Tsagaan Sar. Some say Mongolia should follow the Chinese lunar calendar, while others say we should use the Tibetan lunar calendar. Either way, most agree it is somewhere around right now.
Today is what they call bituun, which is the night before the first night. New Year’s eve, one could say. Stay up and watch the sunrise the next morning and good things will come your way for the next year.
The years all correspond to animals. Last year was the year of the dragon, and now we find ourselves in the year of the snake. What does that mean to Mongolians? Well, they have beliefs about each year. For example, the year of the dragon is thought to be rainy, with the possibility of floods on the rise. Coincidentally, last summer was one of the rainiest in recent memory for Mongolians. Here’s a quick run-down of the other years:
The Year of the Snake brings many disruptions and worries.
The Year of the Horse is also rather disturbing.
The Year of the Sheep is favorable in all respects.
The Year of the Monkey, while cold and troublesome, brings a good harvest.
The Year of the Rooster is one of fertility and high birth rates.
The Year of the Dog is severe at the start and kind at the end.
The Year of the Pig promises rich harvests, but if there are food shortages, they will be brutal.
(Cycling back to the start) The Year of the Mouse promises good yields for livestock, especially camels.
The Year of the Cow has plenty of food and milk.
The Year of the Tiger is hard at the end.
The Year of the Hare is favorable at the start, but spells disaster at the end.
The Year of the Dragon is rainy and floods may occur.
So, we can expect worries and disruptions this year. At least I enjoyed the rain while it was here.