Tsagaan Tsar is, as you might know, the Lunar New Year. This will be a quick one-off post to share some of our experiences during the week-long event.
Officially, actually, the government allows for three days to celebrate the holiday, but in the countryside where herders mostly live, it can go on for about a month.
In our experience, it went something like this: day 1, kids visit parents' and grandparents' homes. Day 2, younger siblings visit older siblings' homes. Day 3, older folk visit younger folk's homes. Day 4, friends and coworkers. There's nothing strict about that setup; we visited families every day except the first, and actually visited a friend well after day 4; rather, these are the general guidelines.
When you get to the ger or apartment or house or whatever, you immediately greet the hosts: first the men, oldest to youngest, then the women, oldest to youngest. Technically, if you're older than a child or something like that, they're supposed to greet you. The greeting itself is a quick thing; hold your arms out as if you're carrying a box and meet the other person in the same fashion, younger person's arms on the bottom, then touch cheeks on both sides and give a normal greeting. Sometimes, the oldest will hand you their bottle of tobacco, which typically you wouldn't actually take a whiff from, only sniff near the cap, then hand back. The bottle itself is usually a very expensive crystal or bone or jade or something bottle, filled with a fine powdered tobacco that you would snort. I've done it once or twice, and it's a craaaazy head rush.
After that, it's eat, drink, eat, drink, eat, eat, eat, drink, drink, drink. Traditionally one eats buuz (pronounced more like "boats" than "booz"), a steamed meat dumpling kind of thing. All the while, you're drinking milk tea and being handed shots of vodka, typically by the oldest male host. Thankfully, they don't expect you to drink the whole thing (or even any of it, necessarily), as most Mongolians use double shots or larger.
Eventually, you'll exchange gifts, and eventually, you'll leave.
Anyway, here's some pictures. See if you can tell which ones involved the most vodka.