Tsagaan Sar: When is Mongolian Lunar New Year?

Tsagaan Sar: Greeting the Ovoo By Luigi Kapaj

Sar shiniin mend hurgeye!
(Happy New Year!)

Tsagaan Sar (White Moon) is the name of the Mongolian lunar New Year. There is some confusion as to when Tsagaan Sar is this and almost every year. First, one must dispel the notion that Mongolians use the same calendar as the Chinese. This is false. They are very similar, especially in concept, but not calculated identically. Mongolians follow a lunar calendar on a 12 animal cycle with the new year starting on a new moon to mark the beginning of spring. It is when the new year begins where the differences are most apparent.

The Mongolian calendar is calculated based on "Togs Buyant" astrology typically under the guidance of the large Buddhist monasteries. A project co-organized between the Mongolian Government and the Gandan Tegchenling Monastery in 2002 defined the lunar calendar from the year 1027 to 2106 toput an end to the periodic confusion over the date of Tsagaan Sar. In 2009, the beginning of the year of the Ox is February 25th.

Tsagaan Sar falls mostly on the same lunar cycle as Losar, the Tibetan new year, asthey are calculated nearly the same. About 50% of the time, Tsagaan Sar andLosar fall on a different month than Chinese New Year. This is the case this year. Attempting to change either Losar or Tsagaan Sar to match Chinese New Year has become a very intense political issue in China. Some Tibetan groups are promoting the idea to not celebrate Losar at all this year in protest over the deaths during the 2008 protests in Tibet.

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Archived Comments
2009-02-26 08:25:01
hey, Luigi, I didn\'t know you did this... Your analysis falls one detail short: WHICH new moon? the first after midwinter, or the new moon after the first full-moon? That is more or less the difference between the buddists and maniland-China. And it is bound to create difficulties as long as it exists: Tibetans can now NOT get a day off when it really matters, instead the get some holidays in Januari when there is no point to it. When will Bejing ever learn?