May 19, 2016

2564 CHINA (Inner Mongolia) - Tsagaan sar, the White Moon Festival

Tsagaan sar (literally White Moon) is the first day of the year according to the Mongolian lunar calendar, and is a big celebration for the Mongols. The traditional Mongol calendar is a lunisolar calendar based on Tegus Buyantu zurkhai system developed in 1747 by monk Ishbaljir. The Mongol year is composed of either 12 or 13 lunar months, each beginning and ending with a new moon. A thirteenth month is added every two or three years, so that an average year is equal to the solar year.

Tsagaan sar is celebrated one month after the first new moon following the winter solstice, and symbolizes the first day of spring. People start to prepare many weeks before the beginning of the festivities. Every family prepares hundreds of raviolis with meat called buuz (the traditional dish for New Year), and the balconies become giant freezers. Families also prepare in advance the elegant clothes they will wear. Nomads prepare their best horses, because they will ride them during the festivities.

The day before Tsagaan Sar (named Bituun, which means "new moon"), Mongolians clean the houses, and light candles to illuminate the Samsara and all the beings who reached the Buddha phase. They place three pieces of ice outside the door, for the God Palden Lhamo's horse to drink while the God is visiting the family. During the night, the families prepare a big dinner with much food, and a great Mongolian wrestling competition is broadcasted on television.

The families organize cards games because the persons who are lucky that night are supposed to be lucky all year long. People pay their debts and try to reconcile, in order to start the New Year under favourable auspices. The morning of Tsagaan Sar, the hostess offers the first cup of tea with milk to the gods, throwing out the content in all directions. Then they go out in front of the house to perform the ritual prayers. These are published in the newspaper and are determined according to Chinese zodiac.

During the two days of Tsagaan Sar, Mongolians visit their whole family (up to ten families in one day). Each visit is ritualized. When they arrive at their host's, the latter is sitting in the Northern part of the yurt, keeping his hat on the head. They come and greet him according to the ritual called Zolgokh: guests come one after the other near the householder. The Khadag on the arms, the guest puts his forearm on those of his host, while uttering the phrase "Amar baina uu? Sar shinedee saikhan shinelej baina uu", which means "Do you live in peace? Are you celebrating New Year in a good way?".

Then the host kisses him on both cheeks (or sniffs him), and the guest gives him money (new banknotes, to mark the renewal, the amount depending on the importance of the host) and/or vodka. Then the guests sit around the table, where a steamed sheep (uuts), and a plate of traditional cookies (tsagaan sariin tavgiin idee). The guests drink three times, usually vodka or airag. After meal, when the guests are ready to leave, the host offers them a gift.

About the stamps
Mongolia stamps
Two of the stamps, depicting Isaak Newton and Albert Eistein, are part of the series World's Most Famous Scientists, about which I wrote here.

The other stamp is one of the four of the series Wild sheep, issued on May 25, 1987 and depicting scenes with the biggest sheep in the world, Argali (Ovis ammon).
• Argali 1 - It's on the postcard 2564
• Argali 2 - It's on the postcard 2604
• Argali 3 -
• Argali 4 -

China stamp
The stamp is part of the series Cloisonne Ware, designed by Xia Jinqiu, and issued on April 21, 2013:
• Cloisonne Enamel Branch Lotus Lines Tripod Type Furnace (Yuan Dynasty) (0.80 CNY)
• Cloisonne Beaker with Floral Pattern and Flanges (Ming Dynasty) (1.20 CNY) - It's on the postcard 2564
• Heavenly Fowl Shaped Zun Vessel (Qing Dynasty) (1.20 CNY)
• Cloisonne Branch Lotus Lines Domou Pot (Qing Dynasty) (1.20 CNY)
• Cloisonne Hanging Vase with Beast Mask Pattern (1.20 CNY)
• Cloisonne Bottle Vase with Long Neck Decorated with Interlocking Lotus Design (Ming Dynasty) (3.00 CNY)

United States stamps
The first stamp is part of a definitive series with butterflies, about which I wrote here. About the second stamp, issued to celebrate The Year of the Ram, I wrote here. The other two are part of the definitives series American Design, about which I wrote here.

Tsagaan Sar - Wikipedia
Tsagaan sar moon festival - Horseback Mongolia

Sender: ???
Sent from China to United States (Greenvale / New York), then to Romania (Ploieşti / Prahova)

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