Tsagan Sar is a really big celebration here in Mongolia -- somewhat the equivalent of our New Year's celebration, except that here, everything shuts down. And this year they remained shut down for at least two days and most were shutdown for three. That can vary from year to year, depending on just when the holiday comes. The time off sounds good until you understand that there are no paid holidays in Mongolia. OUCH!
This holiday is very full of tradition and ceremony. Here are a few of the traditions:
1- It is expected that one will eat until they are virtually ill, for about two or three days. If you do, then you will have plenty to eat for the rest of the year.
2-It is also a time when everyone travels all over to visit with family.
3-It is always held at the new moon in February, thus what day of the week it's held on varies from year to year. And the month is also referred to as White Month.
4-It is the beginning of Spring (someone forgot to tell the weatherman! This as been the coldest weather we've thus far seen!).
5-Much of the food is white dairy products and you must eat some of that white food as the first part of your meal. But you wouldn't believe what they can do with dairy products here. I've never seen so many things made out of milk! Candy, fermented drinks, wierd cheeses and things that we have no idea what to call! And most of it we would consider not edible! Yuch!
This first picture is of a dish called boodz (бооэ). They are golf ball sized noodle/pastries filled with sheep meat and then boiled in water or steam cooked. MMMM, Yum! Not! Actually, they are not bad, though that opinion may be argued by some. Not much taste at all, really. Our Elders enjoyed bragging about eating 100 or more of them during Tsagan Sar (did you notice me shudder)! We seniors didn't compete!
Another popular food is boiled Sheep's head. Pictured is one of two pots of sheep's head which our missionaries cooked for themselves and then gobbled down. Better them than me!
The gentleman pictured is Baatar (our mission driver when we are on mission business), who invited us to his home for dinner during Tsagan Sar. Baatar means 'hero' in Mongolian and it fits. He is a really great guy whom we all very much love and appreciate. He is the youngest of 10 children in his family, though he now has a family of his own.
He alters his menu to make it a bit more palitable for our western style tastes - something we appreciate very much. We very much enjoyed our visit with his family. He lives in a ger district but no longer lives in a ger. He has spent a lot of time and effort to build quite a comfortable brick home there.
You should make special note of the picture of Sister Caldwell trying a bowl of arig (арйиг)-- fermented mare's milk. We just had to try a sip to see what it was like. I may never drink milk again! But they really love it. The lady you see sitting behind Sister Caldwell (Zia), drank down a whole bowl of it! And that's another thing. They just pass the same bowl around the table and everyone drinks from it.
Thought you might also enjoy the picture of what they refer to as a 'fat back'. They like to cook the fatty back part of a sheep and serve it as seen. The fat is one of the favored portions. We kept to the more meaty parts, thank you very much!