Tsagaan Sar (Lunar New Year) the National Festival
The Mongolian calendar operates in 5 cycles of twelve years, each cycle being named after an element (earth, water, fire, ice and wind) and each year bearing the name of an animal. The lunar new year is celebrated over three days in late January or early February, the coldest time of the year (hence the meaning of the name – White Month). The Mongolian hospitality reaches its peak over this period, and homes are filled with visitors, feasting on milk products and buuz (beef or mutton dumplings). Toasts are made with fermented mares milk (airag) or arkhi (distilled from fermented cows’ milk). The festival is celebrated with winter sports, traditional song festivals and other cultural events. At this time monasteries are full of people, usually wearing new dels (traditional gowns), praying and blessing Lord Buddha.