Significance behind Tsagaan Sar food

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Tsagaan Sar table is a unique mixture of food every household sets up. Tsagaan Sar serving begins with Tsagaalga, a dish of curd rice with raisin. The most important ingredient of the Tsagaalga is the traditional dairy product curd, in which other ingredients such as clotted cream, yellow butter, milk, flour, sugar and salt are added.

Since the name of the festival itself indicates a white moon or month, traditional dairy products have symbolic representation in the festival to whiten and purify what’s dark. Being made of numerous granules, curd symbolizes multiplication.

One important attribute of the Tsagaan Sar table is called Idee, a set of traditional sole cakes stacked in odd number of layers upwards. A single layer consists of four sole cakes, making the Idee four-sided, thus symbolizing the four main directions. Mongolians’ philosophy on odd digits is behind the odd number of layers, exemplifying a circle of life that starts with and ends in happiness. The number of layers depends on the social status and age of men; for instance, state leaders’ Idee have nine layers and elders set up seven layers of sole cakes.

Moreover, middle-aged households set up five layers and young families three. Traditionally, clotted cream is placed upon the stacked sole cakes, to be decorated with a variety of dairy products. The fully decorated Idee resembles a mandala.

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