Tsagaan Sar: The most pleasant time of the year
The most pleasant time of the year for most Mongolians is Tsagaan Sar (Traditional Mongolian Lunar New Year). It is particularly pleasant for our domestic food manufacturers as they are busiest at this time. Food manufacturing businesses are generally successful in our country as there are many celebrations and holidays that revolve around food. Singers and bands also earn good amounts during the New Year celebrations.
Tsagaan Sar is the holiday on which Mongolian citizens spend the most money. According to rough estimates, we Mongolians spend approximately 716 billion MNT (around 511 million USD) for this holiday, which is around 5.7 % of the Mongolian Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Many have been critical in the past of the massive imports from China of goods as gifts for the holiday, but in recent years Tsaagan Sar has brought greater economic advantages to domestic manufacturers and enterprises.
Though there is much discussion about whether it is right to celebrate Tsagaan Sar winter or not, the holiday spirit has already filled the air of Mongolia. The elderly are lining up at the banks to get pension loans while the youth are working hard to get overtime pay so they can afford to prepare well and celebrate this traditional national holiday. The average household spends at least 1 million MNT for the holiday, which lasts for four days.
Below is a “Household Budget” that lists the major things Mongolians buy before Tsagaan Sar or use during the holidays, and the prices of these items.
A journalist from Unuudur newspaper went to Huchit Shonhor Market, where a wide range of meat is sold, to find the general prices for mutton rump and other meat used for buuz (traditional Mongolian dumplings that are always served for Tsagaan Sar). The journalist observed that there were many vehicles from the countryside at the market, judging by their number plates, so it was clear that there was a large supply of meat coming in from the countryside. Beef with bone cost 6,100 MNT, without bone cost 6,800-7,000 MNT, mutton with bone cost 5,200 MNT and mutton without bone cost 6,700 MNT, while goat meat with bone cost 5,000 MNT and without bone cost 5,600 MNT. A mutton rump is currently being sold for between 180,000 and 400,000 MNT depending on its weight. Some customers claimed that the price of sheep rump is very high, given that many livestock have died this winter. The average brisket with bone weighs 21 kg and costs 160,000 MNT. The price per kg is between 7,000 and 8,000 MNT.
Tailor shops make many traditional Mongolian deel, hat, boots and waistcoats as a set for the holiday. Buying just a deel is possible too. A men’s deel costs between 80,000 and 800,000 MNT, while a women’s deel costs upward of 70,000 MNT. The price of a child’s deel starts at 20,000 MNT while the cost of a set with deel, hat, boots and waistcoat can cost around 100,000 MNT. At Narantuul Market, a set including a deel, hat, boots and waistcoat for an adult costs as much as 1 million MNT. While a cotton deel costs 50,000 MNT, a deel with lamb skin lining may cost as much as 750,000 MNT.
The price of Kheviin Boov (traditional pastry molded in a particular shape for special occasions) has increased significantly this year in comparison with last year’s Tsagaan Sar when it cost 1,500-1,700 MNT depending on the taste and quality. This year, each kheviin boov produced by Uguuj costs 2,100, while Suman Gun’s kheviin boov costs 2,200 MNT and Atar Urgoo’s kheviin boov costs 2,000 MNT. Double and round pastry for the top of the kheviin boov are provided for free when a whole set of 15 or 21 kheviin boovs is purchased. But a single round pastry alone costs 10,000 MNT.
“Premium” flour manufactured by Altan Taria costs 950 MNT per kilogram. At Bars Market Mongolian potatoes costs 1,100 MNT, carrots cost 1,500 MNT, and onions 1,500 MNT per kg. Tea packed in two kg packages costs 4,500 MNT while milk costs 1,500-2,700 MNT per liter. Khorkhoi curd costs 9,000 MNT, clarified butter costs 12,000 MNT, clotted cream 6,000 MNT while khailmag (clarified butter mixed with flour and raisins) costs more.
A wide variety of gifts are available for reasonable prices at the “Tsagaan Sar-2013” Fair, and at Narantuul and Bumbugur Markets. Salespeople at the markets and fair claimed that people are buying mostly minor kitchen equipment, cups, wallets, gloves, socks, scarves, key chains and cell phone units as gifts. Customers at the market noted that they wanted to buy gifts that are useful to the recipients, and they were spending between 3,000 and 10,000 MNT per item.
Transportation costs generally increase when Tsagaan Sar draws closer. As of January 20, it cost 23,000 MNT to travel from Ulaanbaatar to Arkhangai via a microbus, while a shared taxi to Darkhan cost 15,000 MNT. The same trip by microbus cost 7,000 MNT, and by bus cost 8,000 MNT. A shared taxi to Erdenet cost 20,000 MNT, a microbus 14,000 MNT, a bus 15,000. It costs 45,000 MNT to travel to Khuvsgul via a Phurgon (Russian vehicle).
Call taxi and driver service
The call taxi services in Ulaanbaatar such as Noyon Zuuch-1950 and Ulaanbaatar Taxi-1991 charge an additional 1,000 MNT on top of the fare for being called and for providing fast service. Call taxis charge 1,000 MNT for the first kilometer and charge 600 MNT from the second kilometer onwards. City Taxi-300000 charges no additional fare for extra service. It charges 1,000 MNT for the first km and 700 MNT from the second km. An on-call driver service has been implemented by several companies recently. An on-call driver charges 15,000 per hour and charges 5,000 MNT for every 20 minutes after the ordered hour.
The companies that provide carpet cleaning services, such as Express Service, Bolor, Chanar Service and Tansag Urgo Service have been very busy lately. For households in the suburbs, the service is not provided in the home but they may have their carpets cleaned at the businesses’ premises. If the households that order the service reside near the city centre, the carpets are cleaned in the home but an additional 4,000 MNT is charged. Special brushes and vacuum cleaners are used for cleaning carpets and one square meter of carpet cleaning costs 2,500-3,500 MNT. People can also have their carpets washed with special washing machines, which costs 6,000-7,000 MNT per m2.
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