Tsagaan Sar: A Mongolian tradition, in Alaska

The Mongolian Students Society of the University of Alaska, partnered with the International Student Organization, will soon be hosting Tsagaan Sar. Otherwise known as the white moon, or Lunar New Year, the event is one of the most important for Mongolia and its people.


MSS Logo.jpgTsagaan Sar is based on the lunar calendar. According to Munkh-Urguu Enkhbold, senior business administration major and MSS’s vice president, the celebration is the Mongolian and Eastern Asian equivalent of Christmas. It provides an opportunity to celebrate family and Mongolian traditions, such as cuisine and clothing.

“[Tsagaan Sar] is about family and love,” Enkhbold said. “You visit your family’s homes, meet with distant relatives, exchange gifts and carry on traditions.”

The three-day event typically takes place in mid-February to the beginning of March. This year, it lands on Feb. 15 and continues through Feb. 17.

Since Mongolian students at UAA don’t always have the opportunity to celebrate the Lunar New Year with their families, the MSS and ISO are bringing the event to them. Hosted at the Multicultural Center, the Tsagaan Sar celebration will feature a taste of Mongolia through traditional games, videos and dishes.

The event is not limited to those of Mongolian background, but is open to anyone. According to Geser Bat-Erdene, finance major and senior president of the MSS, this openness allows opportunities for cultures to come together.

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“It’s an opportunity to promote culture overall, not just Mongolian, and it brings that culture to Anchorage,” Bat-Erdene said.

Gokhan Karahan of the accounting department is the faculty advisor for the MSS. Although he is of Turkish origin, Karahan helps the club support and promote diversity on campus.

“I think that any initiative that familiarizes us with the world’s cultures has to be supported, especially in this day and age. In their short time at UAA, [the Mongolian Students Society] has done a respectable job trying to achieve these objectives,” Karahan said. “As some say back home, ‘we would always have a plate at our dinner table if our cousins ever decide to show up.’”

The Mongolian Students Society’s main goal is one of cultural education, and encouragement for others to do the same.

“We like to serve as a role model not only for UAA, but for other universities around the world, including our sister cities,” Enkhbold said. “The opportunities are endless to inspire others.”

The society serves as a resource to other cultural organizations on campus, and helps encourage them to continue to be active and share their cultures as well.

“The mission does not end with Mongolian culture, but with promoting diversity in the university itself,” Bat-Erdene said. “The little things inspire.”

The event is located in the UAA Multicultural Center from 5-7 p.m. on Feb 16 and is open to anyone.