The Gates of Sagaalgan (White Month)

Entry gate to the Ethnographic Museum in Ulan-Ude, all done up Buryat style. Another fine example of Steppe Bling.

Entry gate to the Ethnographic Museum in Ulan-Ude, all done up Buryat style. Another fine example of Steppe Bling.

The gates of Sagaalgaan (White Month) are about to open! White Month is celebrated across the Southern Siberian steppe, Mongolia and parts of China where ever the remnant people of Genghis Khan’s great empire reside. Known as Shagaa in Tuva, Tsagaan Sar in Mongolia and Chagan Sar in Kalmykia, and Sagaalgaan in Buryatia, White Month hastens in the first month of the Lunar New Year. I am not sure what the Lunar New Year is called across the rest of Asia, but it is celebrated throughout Asia. If you know what the Lunar New Year is called in Korea, Nepal, Tibet, Thailand, India, China, or any other Asian country, please leave me a comment below!

Serpant Khan; lord of the Lunar New Year.

Serpant Khan; lord of the Lunar New Year.

This is the year of the snake, which explains this giant ice serpent lording itself over Soviet Square in the center of Ulan-Ude. As the New Year approaches, you always know what next years Wild Kingdom representative (shout out to Marlin Perkins!) will be, as images of it materialize everywhere in plastic, plush, poster, and confection. I was severely tempted to purchase snake embellished porcelain tea cups several days back. I bet your grandmother does not have porcelain ware with snakes in her hutch.

White Month is sure to be a grand month-long celebration. There will be family to visit and feast with, concerts to attend, ceremonies at local Buddhist temples, Shamanistic rituals, and white foods (any milk product, and mutton counts as a white meat) consumed by the stomach-full. White Month also serves to welcome the spring sun to the steppe. (We are in the fit of a cold spell with lows in the -40’s.) After February, it’s all downhill to summer, only March, April and May remain between hardy Siberians and the God blessed month of June!

Stay tuned to this White channel, where I will endeavor to introduce to you the joys, foods and spiritual perspectives of the Buryat during White Month. (Previous years White Month posts: 1. Melody of the Western Buryats, 2. White Month, and 3. Buryat Dance Troupe Ulaalzai.) And, for your enjoyment, images from White Month across the Mongolian World!

Tuva

Shamans lead a ritual during Shagaa in Kyzyl, Tuva. (Alexander Kryazhev RIA Novosti)

Shamans lead a ritual during Shagaa in Kyzyl, Tuva. (Alexander Kryazhev RIA Novosti)

Buddhist Ritual Dance for Shagaa in Kyzyl, capital of Tuva. (found on Sib-infor.ru)

Buddhist Ritual Dance for Shagaa in Kyzyl, capital of Tuva. (found on Sib-infor.ru)

Kalmykia

Traditional steppe greeting with white silk for an honored guest. Kalmykia. (Nikolai Boshev, Rossiskaya Gazeta)

Traditional steppe greeting with white silk for an honored guest. Kalmykia. (Nikolai Boshev, Rossiskaya Gazeta)

Dancers celebrate Tsagaan Sar in the capital city of Kalmykia, Elista. (Nikolai Boshev Rossiskaya Gazeta)

Dancers celebrate Tsagaan Sar in the capital city of Kalmykia, Elista. (Nikolai Boshev, Rossiskaya Gazeta)

Worshipers gather in the main Temple in Elista. (SaveTibet.ru)

Worshipers gather in the main Temple in Elista. (SaveTibet.ru)

Mongolia

State ceremony in honor of Tsagaan Sar. I believe the man in the center is the former President of Mongolia. (my.englishclub.com)

State ceremony in honor of Tsagaan Sar. I believe the man in the center is the former President of Mongolia. (my.englishclub.com)

Trading snuff bottles, an old tradition with Mongolian peoples. (my.englishclub.com)

Trading snuff bottles, an old tradition with Mongolian peoples. (my.englishclub.com)

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