We had a lovely time today celebrating the Mongolian New Year and the Korean New Year. I think that's about as diverse as this little town gets. There are 8 Mongolian students here and a reasonable number of Koreans.
Mongolian New Year is called White Moon or Tsagaan Sar. It is celebrated two lunar months after the first new moon after the winter solstice. It often coincides with Chinese New Year, but not always. Tsagaan Sar was not celebrated for a few decades after WWII because of Soviet influence, but has been celebrated again for 10 or 20 years. It has lost a lot of its shamanistic connections (Mongolia is an interesting mix of shamanism, Buddhism, and some Islam).
Buuz (and another recipe for it here) are very traditional for Tsagaan Sar. They are steamed meat dumplings (they tasted very much like the manti we've eaten with Uzbeks). Families may make hundreds of them to feed guests during the holiday. One Mongolian girl today said that Tsagaan Sar is like a big family reunion. Here is a bread recipe (this looks like one I've made from northern China).
Everyone is supposed to great the oldest person in the house by stretching her or his arms out toward him or her and bowing slightly. The older person stretches out his or her arms over the younger person's.
We also played a variety of games with shagai (sheep anklebones). They looked a bit like the little peanut things they used to fill packages with. They are all a little different, but do have four sides that are basically the same, so they can be used as four-sided dice. Hopefully I can get the students to get some for me when they're in Mongolia next. Our boys had a great time with them and there are many games you can play with them.
One more interesting thing about the day was that one of the students from Mongolia is actually Kazakh. His family and many other Kazakhs have been living in Mongolia for over 50 years. Most of them live in the western part of Mongolia (the only part of the country with no missionaries) and are Muslim. But this student's family moved to northern Mongolia where there are few Muslims. They aren't very observant Muslims, and he joined the Church about 8 years ago. We chanted the Fatiha with him- we'd never done that with another Mormon who hadn't studied Arabic. :)