By Beth Ritchey, KF10, Mongolia
Often on the Kiva website, lenders will see entrepreneurs looking to borrow money to stock their business shelves for an upcoming holiday. In the United States we see retailers plan for the Christmas shopping season, in Central and South America businesses prepare for Carnaval sales and in Mongolia one of the biggest holidays that small businesses look forward to is Tsagaan Sar, the Lunar New Year.
Tsagaan Sar is celebrated two months after the first new moon following the winter solstice, typically in mid to late February. The celebration goes on for several days and is centered around honoring relatives and elders. Mongolians will travel great distances to spend the holiday with family.
The main celebration feature of Tsagaan Sar is the great feast. A full belly during the holiday is said to represent prosperity in the coming months. Buuz, steamed mutton dumplings, are served in vast quantities, signifying the closing down of the previous year. Another central part of the meal is a sheep, preferably one with lots of fat, typically served on a large platter in the center of the table. The sheep and buuz are usually surrounded by plates of dried cheese and cookies stacked in layers of 3, 5 or 7 (lucky numbers). Airag, fermented mare’s milk, and vodka are also enjoyed in copious amounts. During the holiday oral histories are passed to younger family members and traditional games are played, including one that involves hiding a piece of silver in a buuz to signify wealth in the coming year.
Mongolian small business owners see an increase in food related, clothing (you have to look good before heading home) and transportation sales in the weeks leading up to Tsagaan Sar. Tradition holds that when family members and guests visit your home during the holiday small gifts are exchanged by both parties, which means retailers usually see an increase in demand for these as well. Kiva lenders may see Tsagaan Sar related loans popping up in December and January.
For those of you interested, attached below is a Mongolian music video of sorts depicting several Tsagaan Sar related activities (the eating of buuz, the sharing of airag and the passing of snuff bottles).'
Beth Ritchey is currently serving as a member of the Kiva Fellows 10th class with Credit Mongol in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia - make a loan with Credit Mongol today!