Tradition! Tradition.

Traditions! Traditions! [Are you thinking about Tevye?]

Well he said it best and Mongolia follows suit. This country is rich with traditions and cultural celebrations. I had the privilege this past weekend to attend a “hair cutting ceremony” or a Daah’ Urgeeh for the son of one of my friends here in Khuvsgul.

Mongolians know how to throw great gatherings. And this one was no exception. Upon our arrival we were welcomed by about 20 or so relatives belonging to our “boy of the hour.” We were rushed into the living room and I took a seat next to a smiling emee [grandmother] who was dressed in her own Mongolian deel. I greeted her with the common phrase “Did you rest well?” and she was then insistent on telling everyone in the room how great my Mongolian was. Usually at this point they go on talking, thinking you understand. But at this moment she just continued to smile at me and I to her. Mongolians have this way of making you feel so welcomed. Even though my language skills are still low, I have never once felt uncomfortable or out of place at one of these gatherings. I know I stand out like a sore thumb but they have this way of making you feel a part of it all. It’s refreshing.

As per tradition those who come to celebrate with the family are treated with an array of soups, fruits, vegetables, sausage and a roasted sheep. In this picture the sheep is still intact with its fat and below it are its legs. The family barely cut into it during our visit but Mongolians don’t allow you to leave their home without a stomach full of delicious food. We were not exempt.

As everyone was gathered around the roasted sheep, the father prepared the tray for the haircutting ceremony. The scissors were wrapped in a traditional blue khadag or silk cloth. They were placed next to a small bag to collect the strands of hair after cutting. The hair is usually collected and tied to a khadag and saved for a later time. Traditionally, the immediate family then takes turns to first cut a small clump of hair. After doing so, money and well wishes are given. The person giving the haircut is then offered fermented mare’s milk or airag.

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The young boy or girl is then kissed and they continue on to each guest.

Chaz and I were asked to participate in this special ceremony. At first, my instinct was hesitation to cutting this cute child’s beautiful hair. He seemed a little confused as to what was happening and I felt bad at first. But of course it is a positive ceremony and seen as a right of passage from “babyhood” to “childhood,” as it is usually done between ages 3 and 7 during the lunar calendar year of the child. After my friend’s son’s hair was cut by each of the guests, a traditional “horse fiddle” was passed around and played by each of the guests. This is a sign of good luck and well wishes. The time we were there was rich with small talk and friendly chatter. Everyone seemed so happy for us to be there and I felt so privileged to participate along my friend’s family.

Horse Fiddle

It was a very special day. More on traditions in my next post.