Opinion: New Years in Mongolia

Written by G.Chingis
Tuesday, December 28, 2010.
In 1921, Mongolia, with support of Soviet Russia, started to become a modern country. Since that time, Mongolia started to adopt some current holiday practices, such as New Years, International Women’s Day and Mongolian Army Day (Men’s Day).

The entire procedure to celebrate the New Year is the same as the Soviet/Russian tradition. Typically, New Year’s Eve is a family celebration and Mongolians usually watch the New Year’s Speech of the President of Mongolia. This year, Mr. Ts. Elbegdorj has promised to make his toast with a cup of milk instead of a glass of Russian Champagne.

In terms of food, Mongolians usually have the Russian version of potato salad (Russians call this Olivier salad). Of course, Mongolians prefer to eat meat instead of fish. Russians failed to adopt fish eating in Mongolia. There usually are gifts given children as well. In socialist times, it was common to give mandarins to children. Therefore, for most Mongolians over 40, the New Year’s celebration has associations with mandarins. Of course, people will drink hard liquors, such as vodka, whiskey, and brandy before and after midnight. As a result, most people will have a massive hangover for the entire next day or some will collapse very early and sometimes even before midnight.

In socialist times, it was a tradition to celebrate New Year’s at a company party. Of course, with the lack of restaurants usually these New Year’s Party will be in the company’s café (Guanz) or even in a big meeting room. Also, this party is usually accompanied with a dancing party, where people dance the waltz. Therefore, foreign executives should learn how to waltz as soon as possible to impress Mongolian co-workers and partners. It should be well understood that Mongolia was a socialist country, where labor was the most important activity. For that reason, restaurants and bars were only for bad western foreigners. Every kind of entertainment was forbidden, unless they were politically motivated.

Usually, before this New Year’s party, there will be a kind of town meeting where company management will announce Leaders of the Year, such as Best cleaning lady of 2010 in your company, or Best Security officer of 2010 or something like that. For example, the current Minister of Finance of Mongolia, Mr. S. Bayartsogt was awarded the title of “the Best Economist of 2010.” When Mongolia moved towards a market economy in 1991, new democrats immediately adopted this tradition. Half of the new democrats were former socialism political economy lecturers, such as the former Prime Minister R. Amarjargal, former Deputy Prime Minister D. Ganbold and young bankers, such as the current Deputy President of MongolBank, and former President of the Mongolian Stock Exchange Mr. N. Zoljargal. Of course, they were hungry for titles, medals and orders. As a result, Mr. N. Zoljargal was once the Best Economist of the year, and then Mr. R. Amarjargal became this next year or the year before the Best Economist etc. Now, the first Democratic President of Mongolia Mr. Ts. Elbegdorj continues this communist tradition to give medals and awards. It is hard to imagine that Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierr will award revolutionaries awards of the French monarchy. But in Mongolian, communist awards were given by the first Democratic President.

Anyhow, for foreign executives it will be a busy month since you should attend many New Year’s Parties. Of course, many of them will go home for Christmas. Nevertheless, for their success they should stay in Mongolia during this period. This is also a great time to meet many important government officials in an informal environment and it might a good chance to fix your problems with governmental authorities. For example, if you are in the mining business and you have problems with your mining/exploration licenses, this is a good chance to fix these problems. Very often governmental authorities will ask for donations; of course they will ask for donations, not bribes.

After the New Year, there will be the Lunar New Year. This was forbidden to celebrate in socialist times because this celebration has some religious aspects. In socialist times, there was the popular slogan “Religion is the opium of masses”.

Anyway, the New Year is the beginning of a long festive time for Mongolians, which will finish in March. Probably, ancient Mongolians also enjoyed this festive time for different reasons. But without such a festive period, it is difficult to go through the harsh Mongolian winter.

Source:UB Post Newspaper


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