Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Tsagaan Sar Edition

As I've previously mentioned, my husband and I met as Peace Corps Volunteers in Mongolia. When you share something like that (how many people can say they met their husband when he was on his way to the market to buy fermented mare's milk?), it is not surprising that certain elements of the culture and customs stick with you years beyond your return. When you bring kids into the mix, it becomes important all over again to introduce and share some of that experience with them.

With that in mind, every February Sean and I get into Tsagaan Sar mode. Tsagaan Sar (translated as "White Moon") is the Mongolian Lunar New Year celebration. In Mongolia, it is a three day celebration of visiting family and friends, paying respects to elders, and consuming copious amounts of meat dumplings, sheep back fat, salty milk tea, and vodka. Around these parts, we take it down a notch, but we do our best to bring some of the spirit of the holiday to our home. Here are a few highlights from 2012:

  • We currently have Mongolian vests for both of our kids. The smaller silk vest was sent by a Mongolian friend when Finn was born. The larger felt vest was purchased for my nephew when I was in Mongolia and has since been passed back to me.

  •  Every year, Sean goes to great lengths to prepare a traditional Mongolian tower of cookies as a centerpiece for the Tsagaan Sar table. The cookies, called "ul boov" (which translates to "shoe sole") are typically deep fried in huge vats of oil then arranged in a circular tower and topped with candy and pieces of dried cheese. We tried this one year, and multiple sacks of flour and jugs of oil later, we had a big oily mess. The next year we tried adapting an unleavened bread recipe. It worked a bit better but still wasn't quite right. This year, after my Christmas craft discovery, we decided to construct the ul boov out of salt dough then stamp them...and not only did it work beautifully, but we never have to worry about making it again - after Tsagaan Sar dinner, Sean deconstructed and packed away the cookies for next year's centerpiece. 

  •  We taught Finn the traditional Mongolian greeting, and he welcomed our guests to the gathering. Finn speaking Mongolian in his gruff little voice was one of the highlights of the evening for me.

All in all, a very successful and celebratory Tsagaan Sar gathering. From our family to yours, we hope your two-year-old horse has enough fat for the winter, your two-year-old yak has enough muscle, and all of your animals passed the winter safely!


  1. Oh those boys! I want to snuggle the heck out of them in their little Mongolian vests! So cute. What a great tradition you are keeping up!

  2. I'm so glad you guys bring the Mongolian tradition with you here and even teaching your children. GREAT JOB!
    The greeting look very cute.
    How are you gonna keep the ul boov for the next year??? (DO you mean you'll never eat them? Just as a center piece? )

    1. We won't eat the ul boov - we actually painted them with shellac to seal them. So yes, it will just be a centerpiece...but we'll eat the candy on top :) Sean did such a great job.

  3. oh i see...i can see that. They just look like the real ul boovs. The shape is perfect. You guys are awesome!

  4. So cute kids!!! I like the ul boov! :)