Tsagaan Sar: New Life in the Dead of Winter

Tsagaan Sar Celebrationby Jeremy Fields, serving in Mongolia

Jeremy Fields  works with Compassion and Mercy Associates (CAMA), the relief and development arm of The Alliance. CAMA provides a variety of ministries that flesh out the good news of God’s love for people—body and soul.

From New Year’s Eve (January 1) to the White Moon Festival (February 14-16, this year) is a rough time of year in Mongolia. It is bitter cold, and perseverance is worn thin.

Days are short, resources have been stretched, and Mongolians are digging in for the remainder of winter. They also are pouring every scrap of their time and energy into preparing for another holiday that they can scarcely afford-Tsagaan Sar, which means “white month” or “white moon.”

Mongolian New Year

The most important Mongolian holiday, Tsagaan Sar, is the country’s lunisolar New Year’s festival (a lunisolar calendar, used in many cultures, indicates the moon phase and the time of the solar year). Celebrated annually, this three-day festival takes place two months after the first new moon, following the winter solstice.

Like holidays everywhere, Tsagaan Sar involves a lavish feast, requiring preparation weeks in advance. Women make hundreds, even thousands, of buuz (pronounced, bohz), a meat-filled dumpling, and freeze them for the holiday.

It is customary to visit the homes of relatives and friends during the celebration, exchange gifts, and eat a plate of buuz at each home. Airag, a specialty drink made of fermented mare’s milk, is also served. Boov, the centerpiece of the Tsagaan Sar feast, is a stack of fried bread layered with candy and cheese. It is usually placed on a table next to a whole boiled sheep.


Tsagaan Sar is the New Year’s holiday, spring cleaning, a family reunion, even Christmas-all blended into one big celebration. With its vague spiritual foundation of newness and goodwill, many small activities are done to bring about protection or good luck. 

One family may stack pieces of ice on either side of their front door to ward off a curse. Another family might get up before the sun rises and walk a prescribed number of steps in each direction-in order to bring peace in the year to come.

I find that the older Mongolian White Moon traditions most closely parallel the Jewish Passover feast (as described in Exodus 12). Unfortunately, when God’s children drift from His will and Word, celebrations, even spiritual activities, become meaningless and oppressive.

Can you imagine Christmas without Luke 2 or the story of the Three Wise Men?! And so the White Moon holiday has gradually spiraled into flurries of activity and overconsumption without consideration or thanks for the One who provides.  

Good News Bridges 

Even as Mongolian families are spending what meager funds they have on White Moon festivities, heating fuel and winter stores are quickly dwindling. Tensions are building as Mongolian wonder if these reserves will last during this bitterly cold season. There is no thought beyond making it past this last hurdle of a long, hard winter.

Yet, God is beginning something new here in the “dead” of winter, and we are excited to be a part of it! Dozens of bridges for God’s glory can even be found within the White Moon holiday!

For example, the three days are a time for repairing and cleaning everything-traditionally, new white clothes were worn. You will notice these are outwardly focused activities. What about cleaning things on the inside-repentance, reconciliation, and a commitment to walk in the light?! 

Before the sun rose on February 14, some of our neighbors joined us to praise the LORD of heaven and intercede for His protection over our street. We gathered to greet and honor our God, the One who truly makes us clean. We read Psalm 19. As a sign of our desire to be clean and live righteously, we washed our hands and asked His forgiveness. When the sun rose, we dispersed to greet our families, a White Moon tradition, blessing oldest to youngest. 

New Life Outreaches

New life in the dead of winter is also springing up in our house churches and through providing the poor with fuel, medicines, and needed supplies. We are engaged in leadership training, developing partnerships, and introducing financial savings groups.

We had a four-hour orientation introducing savings groups as a means of Kingdom outreach this month; 38 participants from nine local churches attended. During the first portion of the seminar we talked about “wealth” in terms of quality relationships-Adam and Eve were the wealthiest people in history before becoming poverty stricken after falling out of relationship with their Creator!

Thankfully, Jesus restores us to right relationship, and He calls us to serve as reconcilers. Since financial issues are most often the source of Mongolians’ groaning, it is an area for believers to serve the poor and become salt and light for God’s transforming power!

Please continue to pray with us as our Mongolian brothers and sisters visit homes and explain God’s character and purpose through meaningful gospel bridges into this culture, including Passover and baptism. May His Kingdom come as it is in heaven, as we find forgiveness and purity through His Christ!  

Learn More

  • Be sure to watch “A Two-Handed Gospel,” [duration, 4:14 min.] a video in which Jeremy describes Mongolia’s great physical and spiritual needs and how Alliance workers and local believers are seeking to be the Church’s “hands and heart” to this hurting nation.
  • Read about our work in Mongolia.  


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