First, a few basics about the Mongolian holiday Tsagaan Sar.
Tsagaan means “white” and Sar can be translated as “month” or “moon”. The holiday—arguably Mongolia’s most important—is the celebration of the Lunar New Year, held a month after the first new moon following the Winter Solstice.This year it fell on February 11th. It’s celebrated for a minimum of three days, but can easily be stretched out for a month. And yes, the White Moon is celebrated largely by eating foods that are white.
That much you can learn from Wikipedia. But Tsagaan Sar, like the best holidays, is all about family. So in order to truly understand it, you need to be kin to some Mongolian. And this is where I’ve made some unique commitments to getting the inside story. I am a native Californian of Korean extraction who met a Mongolian man, moved to his home region in north-central Mongolia, and, as a final act of assimilation perhaps, gave birth to a daughter earlier this winter. I am now, irrevocably, family.
And so, here is my view from the inside of the festival. These are the Seven Steps of TsagaanSar.