Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tsagaan Sar Celebrations

Well, we're finally getting to a holiday - just a long weekend, really, but any port in a storm.  The last month has been exhausting and if you haven't been able to tell by my random facebook posts and my tone on here, I've been a little...blah.  Last Saturday's Winter Palace visit didn't happen.  It's closed on Saturday (wtheck?)  And it turns out the wrestling I was hoping for is on Sunday, when I will be in Harbin, and even if I weren't, tickets sold out - you have to wait in line overnight in order to get them.  Overnight?  In this weather?!?  No thanks.  Disappointing, but no.  So I've been kind of disappointed but I'm thankful tomorrow's Friday.
The holiday in question is Mongolia's new year celebration, Tsagaan Sar.  It's one of the two big holidays celebrated here, so it's a pretty big deal.  There were all sorts of things going on at school this week - we had national dress day for Monday AND Tuesday (I didn't take any pics; I was sick Monday and couldn't be bothered Tuesday).  Last night the owner of the school treated us to a nice big dinner, so grub club was canceled.
The Mongolian teachers put together a presentation for our edumacation, and one of the things they pointed out was that it is auspicious to have a big Tsagaan Sar meal; if you don't, it means you will be hungry in the coming year.  I made sure to load up my plate with plenty of delicious khushuur and buuz.
To that end, the kids have been involved in a food drive for the past few weeks.  There are plenty of families that don't have enough, so the senior class has been coordinating a collection for them.  Here they are tallying the final results and organizing them for distribution.
Back in November the school collected Movember money, and some of that went to our Mongolian sister school.  They came to school today and performed dances and songs for us to say thanks.
They had the most amazing assortment of costumes.  Someone told me this afternoon that their dance coach makes them.  What a Herculean task that must be - I've stitched a belly dance costume or two in my time, and I cheat by using ready-made skirts.  I can't imagine trying to sew one of these beautiful costumes, but less all of them!
I love seeing the way Mongolians take traditional dress and update it to make it fashionable.  These dresses were probably the most gorgeous I've seen, although the cashmere companies here do their part, too (fashionable AND warm).  The performances were amazing, and it was a great chance to try out the action setting on my new camera...I got some great shots, if I do say so myself.  Next time, I'm going to go easier on it, though - I had 600 some pictures to sort through this evening.
Ironically enough, I won't be taking further part in the festivities.  I'm finally going to make it to Harbin to see the ice and snow festival.  And I just realized today that Tsagaan Sar coincides with Lunar New Year as Celebrated by the Chinese, so it may be a very loud vacation, but I am excited about the chance to see the fireworks, and my new camera backpack made it JUST in time, so I am ready to kick some travel butt.  Stay tuned.

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