Tsagaan Sar 2023

Tsagaan Sar which means ‘White Moon’ marks the first day of the Mongolian Lunar New Year, which typically falls in late January or early February. This celebration is a warm welcome for the upcoming arrival of spring, and the awakening of nature. This year, Tsagaan Sar takes place from February 21st to February 23rd!

The day before the New Year (February 20th) is called “Bituun” (it is also the phase of the lunar cycle where the moon is new, or the phase of the dark moon) and on this day preparations for the celebrations and gatherings begin.  Inside their freshly deep-cleaned homes, Mongols gather to exchange greetings and gifts such as cheese and yogurt, as well as other traditional items like snuffboxes and belts.  They have a large feast, enjoying their traditional food (which includes ‘buuz’, which is steamed meat dumplings and ‘khuushuur’, also known as deep-fried meat pastries), and drink. They wear their best traditional attire and engage in various cultural activities, such as playing games and performing traditional dances. Additionally, as they travel from home to home, they incite positivity and prosperity to each other to ensure an abundant and fruitful year and participate in spiritual rituals, such as visiting temples or offering prayers to ancestors.

After Tsagaan Sar, Mongolians traditionally observe several customs. One such custom is to welcome the first sunrise of the new year. Men climb to the nearest hilltop to witness it, while women offer milk tea at home as an offering to the earth and God for the health of their family. Although Tsagaan Sar officially lasts for three days, the first 15 days are considered significant. During this time, Mongolians prioritize visiting relatives, neighbors, and elders. Each visit is marked with a Zolgokh greeting, where two people extend their arms, and the younger person places their hands below the elder’s elbows as a sign of respect and support.

Beyond the food and clothing, Tsagaan Sar is a time for Mongolians to come together and celebrate their shared culture and history. The festival is an opportunity for people to honor their ancestors and to connect with their heritage. It is also a time for younger generations to learn about their traditions and customs from their elders, ensuring that these practices are passed down and preserved for future generations.

Moreover, Tsagaan Sar is a colorful and vibrant event promoting community spirit and strengthening social ties between families and generations. The act of visiting and exchanging greetings with relatives, neighbors, and elders, is a significant aspect of the festival, and it serves as a way to build and reinforce local relationships seamlessly, promoting a sense of belonging and mutual support within the community.

2023: The Year of the Black Rabbit 

The 3rd of the 12 cyclical zodiac animals, each with unique characteristics. The animals are paired with 1 of 5 elements that also rotate over the years. The elements, metal, water, fire, wood, and earth, provide further unique traits to those born in that year. Those born in 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, and 2022 are believed to have strong interpersonal relationships and are very family oriented.

Fun Fact: The Rabbit zodiac sign repeats every 12 years, but a specific type of Rabbit year, the Black Rabbit year, only occurs every 60 years. This means that the last time the Year of the Black Rabbit occurred was in 1963.

Wishing a very happy Tsagaan Sar to our Mongolian brothers and sisters that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting along the way!


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Who is the great Warrior Ruler, Genghis Khan?

Who is the great Warrior Ruler, Genghis Khan?

The Genesis 

Originally known as Temujin (named after a Tatar chieftain), Genghis Khan was born in 1162 along the border of Mongolia and Siberia, near Lake Baikal. This budding warrior was a member of the Borjigin tribe, and a descendent of the great Khabul Khan (Khabul Khan “briefly united Mongols against the Jin (Chin) Dynasty of northern China in the early 1100s”). He was born with a blood clot in his hand, which signifies that the infant is meant to become a leader in Mongolian culture. Many great leaders are born of great turmoil and unfortunately, Genghis was no exception. He was destined to live a life full of unpredictability and trauma. 

His parents were not united out of love, but rather, came together when his mother was kidnapped by his father, Yesukhei, who forcefully married her. Violence and sadness surrounded Gengis Khan as “dozens of nomadic tribes on the central Asian steppe were constantly fighting and stealing from each other.” Genghis was one of 6 siblings when his father died of poisoning, an attack premeditated by an enemy clan. What followed was a poverty-stricken widow & siblings, & Bekhter (half-brother) and Genghis fighting to be the head of the household. Genghis wins as a result of killing Bekhter and becomes the main protector and provider. 

What happened next?  

Genghis grew up and married Borte at 16 years old and together they shared 4 boys and an undocumented number of girls. Their marriage cemented a necessary alliance between the Konkirat tribe and his own. Later, Botre would be taken by the Merkit tribe and was forcefully given to a chieftain as a wife. Genghis sent out a search party and was successful in retrieving his wife. Along the way, they have another son named Jochi (from the kidnapping) and Genghis continues to have more children with other lovers. 

This is a little bit about Genghis’ early life. Although far from perfect, he goes on to wear many hats, and unite the people of Mongolia – building a strong and fortified Mongolian empire. Did you know that Mongol is the biggest empire conquered?  Victory took 3 generations (Genghis’ sons and grandsons) and was largely thanks to Mongolian gers. Because they were nomads, the soldier’s families would follow the soldiers allowing them to go on very long campaigns without feeling homesick. Amazing right!? 

The Warrior Ruler 

Later, Genghis Khan would be temporarily enslaved by the Taichi’uts. Through a string of events, he escapes and builds a fighting unit with clansmen and his blood brothers. Genghis naturally rose to command and the unit grew larger until he had assembled over 20,000 men. Each soldier had a few horses allowing them to advance very fast. Ultimately, he wanted “to destroy traditional divisions amongst the various tribes and unite the Mongols under his rule.” 

As the unit began to fight more battles, they gradually became stronger and more strategic through military tactics and their leader’s guidance. Overcoming one rival tribe at a time, Genghis was able to annihilate the Tatar tribe and avenge his father’s death. He then went on to conquer the “Naiman tribe, thus giving him control of central and eastern Mongolia.” The unit achieved victory after victory, rallying tribes under their feet.

Genghis was a wise and tactful leader that was able to create “an extensive spy network and was quick to adopt new technologies from his enemies.” His quick thinking and intelligence brought men together from far and wide. The fighting unit went from 20 000 to over 80 000, making them a powerful force. They had a lot of intelligent systems in place that increased their coordination and enabled them to carry loads of handy equipment for battle. It is believed they invented the postal system with a system of horse relays that allowed them to pass information extremely quickly from every corner of the empire. They had advanced and “sophisticated signaling systems of smoke and burning torches. Large drums sounded commands to charge, and further orders were conveyed with flag signals. Every soldier was fully equipped with a bow, arrows, a shield, a dagger, and a lasso. Cavalrymen carried a small sword, javelins, body armor, a battle-ax or mace, and a lance with a hook to pull enemies off their horses.”  

Proceeding a long string of wins against rival tribes, the warrior’s name transitioned from Temujin (his original name) to Genghis Khan, which translates to ‘Universal Ruler’ or ‘Warrior Ruler’.  Genghis Khan was a name that rang throughout Mongolia and “the title carried both political importance and spiritual significance.” The leading shaman declared Genghis Khan the representative of Mongke Koko Tengri (the ‘Eternal Be Sky’), the supreme god of the Mongols. With this declaration of divine status, it was accepted that his destiny was to rule the world.”  

In 1207, Genghis carried his honorable name and battle instruments on both shoulders, as he guided his calvary men to override the Xi Xia. Then, in 1211, he attacked North Korea in Jin Dynasty in northern China, then following in “1219, he waged a 3-prong attack against the Khwarazmian dynasty, and so on and so forth. Did you know that when the Mongols reached the doors of Europe, they entered cities that stunk so badly (because of the lack of sewage systems) that they decided to stop it there and go home? Crazy right?! Genghis khan would set up embassies (a word originating from the Mongolian language)  in the countries conquered and with no violence for those who surrendered. 

He was also fascinated by all the knowledge he picked up along the way and brought back to Mongolia scientists, artists and especially representatives of all religions (today all religions are still well tolerated in Mongolia and cohabit in relative harmony and great tolerance). Put simply, where ever Genghis and his men went, they conquered and brought the best from their conquest home. 

Mission Accomplished

Even the greatest of lives must come to an end. The Warrior Ruler died in 1227, shortly following the surrender of Xi Xia. There is mystery behind his death, however.  It is believed by some that Genghis “fell off a horse while on a hunt and died of fatigue and injuries. Others contend that he died of respiratory disease. Genghis Khan was buried without markings, according to the customs of his tribe, somewhere near his birthplace—close to the Onon River and the Khentii Mountains in northern Mongolia. According to legend, the funeral escort killed anyone and anything they encountered to conceal the location of the burial site, and a river was diverted over Genghis Khan’s grave to make it impossible to find.” 

From Temujin to Genghis Khan, he was truly an unforgettable conqueror. 

Next Read: The Intricate Symbolism of Mongolian Gers >