by Mark


December 22 is the longest day of the year in Mongolia.  (I’m not sure why its not the 21st- if its something to do with date lines or what).  This is when winter begins.  The Mongolians say that winter is made up of Nine Nines or Nine periods of nine days each.  The nines build in coldness and then taper off.  The end of the Nine Nines, and winter, is Tsagaan Tsar  (White Month) a combination that equals Christmas, New Year and every other holiday rolled into one.  The date of Tsagaan Tsar is set by the Llams according to the (lunar?) calendar (I’m not sure about how which date gets the nod and apparently there was some disagreement this year.)  Tsagaan Tsar will begin on February 21 and run for 3 days.  Meanwhile we are working on the 3rd Nine.  Its gotten cold a few days but not really bad- I’m still bracing for the -30 F that is probably lurking around the corner and hoping the nines go quickly.