Chaga Bayram – Altaian New Year – is celebrated on February, 23
Chaga Bayram is a traditional national holiday of Altaians. “Chaga Bayram” is translated as White Month’s Holiday and is considered as the start of the new year. The date is determined by the lunar calendar (usually in the period from the end of January till early March) and it corresponds to other similar holidays of Turkic people such as Tsagaan Sar in Mongolia, Sagaalgan in Buryatia, Shagaa in Tyva and also the Tibetian New year. The date of celebrating in Altai is chosen by the Governor of the Republic in one of the first three even days after the New Moon. In 2023 the celebration will be held on the 23th of February.
For nomads this period of time has great significance. It is the start of a new stock-raising period, time to sum up results and have a short rest before a very busy period of animal yield.
Chaga Bayram is an ancient holiday, which has delivered traditions of our ancestors through the centuries. Usually it starts early in the morning with a special ritual with the main idea – renewal of nature and people. The patriarchs make the first fire of a new year and start praying to the Spirit of the fire, accompanying it with the ritual of feeding the fire. They ask the spirits of Altai for blessing the holiday itself, for peace and prosperity to the motherland, for well-being and health to all people and animals.
After the ritual the festival part of the holiday starts. Usually the celebrating of Chaga Bayram is very cheerful. There are theatrical performances, parades, sports contests, tobogganing, exhibitions of traditional crafts and national cuisine.
A very interesting ritual takes place – rolling down a mountainside. It is believed that while rolling, a person absorbs the power of the earth, attracts grace, good luck, and the snow cleanses from all evil. Also, the participants, accompanied by cheerful laughter and approval, compete in the distance of the roll, the further, the happier this person will live the coming year.
Joy and good mood reign on the holiday, people celebrate the arrival of the new year, as a new cycle of life. Winter is coming to an end, the revival of nature, new hopes, new events are ahead.
This year a lot of events will be held in the main square of Gorno-Altaisk city as well in the big villages.
On the pictures – celebrating of Chaga Bayram in 2017 and 2018 organized by Sailugem national park for local farmers.
Credit: Sailugem national park