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What does Christmas or New Year mean to Mongolians?

As people exchange culture and traditions, one of the new traditions we picked up is the New Year or nowadays Christmas.

Until the middle of the 20th century, we never celebrated this holiday. We had Lunar Calendar with New Moon Holiday (White Moon) instead. With Soviet influence, the whole new idea was introduced with the Winter Grandpa, snow girls, Evergreen Tree, the gifts to children, delicious and well-varied food, and the circus shows. Until I was 15, I hadn't known who Santa Claus was. The Winter Grandpa, with long white-beard and long white-hair, wore white deel (traditional Mongolian dress like a costume), blue cap, a pair of eyeglasses, pointy boots and long stick rumored to have some magic. Winter Grandpa was a famous Mongolian actor and he was one and only Winter Grandpa since the 1960s (since we started celebrating). Same person, same voice, same gesture - really convincing we believed he was the one.

In 2010, the whole country had its heartbroken with his death and new Winter Grandpa was born - who suspiciously looks like the Santa. The old Winter Grandpa never visited our home, so we had to go to the circus to get our gifts. He didn't have time for every kid unlike Santa, so he gave gifts to the kids who had good marks on their lessons.

Winter Grandpa was usually followed by beautiful snow girls dressed in white and glitters. Every girls' dream was to be chosen for the snowgirl.

New Year Holiday lasts for a day. On 31st December, parents work half day and spend the other day preparing for the holiday. 1st of January is day-off. People enjoy a nice, usually homemade special dinner with their family and wait for the new year. The last five minutes pass with President's speech. Countdown and The New Year. A bottle of champagne is opened and people start sending greetings to friends and family. The country in general share this superstition that you will be doing whatever you are doing at the beginning of the new year.

First few hours of the new year, people are posting about what they were doing at the last and first minute all over the internet. The 1st of January is the day you visit each other. 2nd of January, New Year is already old.

As years pass by I see that my children know much more about Santa Clause than the Winter Grandpa, and they are creating a secret letter that says they need an iPhone 11 for Christmas!!!

Things are changing fast, but we still celebrate the importance of family, what it means to give gifts and make each other happy.

Happy New Year!

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