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Winter Holidays in Kyrgyzstan

жаны жылыңар менен!  с новым годом!

The most widely celebrated holiday in Kyrgyzstan has just passed, but surrounding the New Year celebrations the holiday season is thriving in its full glory.  As in much of the world, the winter holidays are anticipated with increasing excitement throughout the year, so what do people in Kyrgyzstan do for the holidays?

The primary answers to this question are family and food.   Sidewalk markets spring up in every town with extra supplies of delectable treats to adorn tables for the New Year.  Lights, decorations, and gifts are front and center, unmissable during a routine visit to the market.   For a few weeks, the bustle and energy of preparation permeates the air throughout the country. 

On the final days of December, taxis and buses are packed to the brim with students and young adults making their way home for the New Year holiday, sometimes traveling 8 hours, or more, to spend a few days with their parents before returning for school and work.  While these transportation times may seem long, there is an air of joviality as bulging bags of gifts are balanced on laps and precious cakes are carefully stowed away.  Collectively the country prepares for a few days of rest and enjoyment with people that they love.

Once weary travelers arrive at their destination, the food component of the holidays begins.  Salads, cakes, dumplings, candy, noodles, meats, fruit, jams, honey, bread, and tea are just the beginning.  Savory main dishes of fried fish, besh barmak, and roasted lamb shortly find a place on the table, and the family lingers around the food, talking, laughing, and relishing the time together.   One of the famous traditions (with unknown origins) is the eating of mandarins or clementines.   The small oranges are piled high at the markets, and kilos upon kilos will be brought home to add bursts of color and flavor to conversations between meals.  

Depending on the amount of time that people have off from school and work, the following days may be filled with snowmen and snowball fights, or cozy cups of chai around a table.  Some will head into the mountains for skiing, and others may carry on the usual routines of caring for animals and work.   Gradually normal life does take hold, but for those few blissful days, the holiday mood is deep and joyful and enduring.  

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Ruby Mitchell

Online Content Editor @ White Leopard Travel Co.

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