It is a centuries – old celebration and one steeped in the Buddhist religion, though most Mongolians of all beliefs observe the day in some fashion. The main celebrations last for three days, from the day before to the day after the new moon, but some keep up the festivities for as long as two weeks. On the Gregorian calendar, Tsagaan Sar comes in January or February, the date varying from year to year, but not drifting endlessly away. The reason for this is that Mongolia uses a combination solar-lunar calendar, which does not align with the Western solar dating system but yet keeps Tsagaan Sar firmly in mid-winter.
On “Mongolian New Year Eve”, there are a number of rituals that Mongolains perform in order to bring good luck for the year to come. First, houses must be cleaned out thoroughly, which is often a day – long task. Candles are lit to symbolize enlightenment and to give light to any spirits who have “become Buddhas” that might visit. Three chunks of ice are also left just outside the door, since the horse of Palden Lhamo, a Buddhish god, visit every home on New Year’s Eve and will be thirsty. Finally, a family dinner is enjoyed in the evening, card games are played in the hopes of beginning a year – long good luck streak, debts are paid off, and grudges are forgiven.