Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tsagaan sar!

Yesterday, Harvey and I got to enjoy Tsagaan sar, Mongolian New Year, at the home of Susan Fox and David Thewlis with their friends Ganaa, Ricardo, Diane and Dave. Ganaa, a native Mongolian, was very gracious in sharing her culture with us and showed us how to make buuz (pronounced "boze"). I'd call buuz Mongolian potstickers -- ground meat wrapped in dough and steamed, then eaten with whatever sauce or condiment you choose. Ganaa tried to teach us how to say "happy new year" but I have to admit I can't remember the phrase now, probably owing to following the Mongolian custom of celebratory drinking -- we toasted with lots of beer and "Ghingis Khan" brand Mongolian vodka (very tasty). Since Mongolian beer isn't available in the U.S., they offered Singha, a Thai beer (available at our local Co-Op), and the closest in flavor they have found.

I got the impression that Tsagaan sar seems to be a progressive party with family groups going from ger to ger during the course of the celebrations which last for several weeks and involve eating and drinking to excess. For instance, one night you and your family would come to my place tonight, we'd give you gifts and feed you. Lots. Then tomorrow, I and mine would come to your place and you'd reciprocate. Mongolians are generous and hospitable to a fault, sometimes going hungry themselves when hospitality requires them to entertain a guest. It seems no one is ever turned away from a ger, and always welcomed with tea and whatever food is available. (It's common for us to call Mongolian homes yurts because that's what occupying Russians called them, but the correct Mongolian word is ger, pronouced "gare".)

Ganaa, Ricardo, Susan and David all shared stories of Mongolia. After dinner, Ganaa and Susan shared pictures on the computer.

Here are some nifty links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsagaan_Sar
http://www.mongoluls.net/tsagaansar.shtml
http://asiangypsy.blogspot.com

Naturally, we ate and drank to excess. I believe I need an aspirin.
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