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Shagaa Holiday was included in Tuvan Constitution in 1990

Shagaa Holiday was included in Tuvan Constitution in 1990In 1986, for the first time in modern Tuvan history, celebration of Shagaa was performed in the foyer of Tuvan theatre of music and drama by young scholars from TNIIYaLI (today TIGI), theatre artists, and museum employees. The idea of celebrating the holiday belonged to Kaadyr-ool Bicheldei. "I remember that we used the theatre's collection of folk costumes, everybody who could put on a Tuvan ton, - reminisces Kaadyr-ool Bicheldei years later.

A scenic yurt from "Khaiyranbot" play was put up. Because the action attracted interest, it brought in a lot of people, and the foyer was full. We played tevek, competed in speeches, sang chastushkas. Everybody enjoyed it, it was interesting and cheerful. But the next day we were all called up to the party committee. I remember that the accusations were something like this: how could you, in such a beautiful white building of socialist culture, play those silly games and sing improper chastushkas?!

It was very upsetting that one of well-known poets publicly stigmatized us by wishing to return to feudalism, called our yurt an archaic relic, and even said something about lack of hygiene. At the same time, and I had read his verses, he had a good attitude towards Tuvan culture. But if it suited the administration, he was willing to write or say whatever they wanted. I remember thinking that it was good that this weren't the '30's, he would have demanded us executed.

Some of the people who participated in the celebration began to say that they did not put on tons, others said that they were made to do it. I and my friends honestly said that yes, we have done it, and it was interesting. They wanted to drag me to responsibility, but I told them: "In that case we will have a public discussion, in newspapers, on TV." The accusations fell silent after such a proposal. The celebrations then began to be performed in the kozhuuns, but without "san salyr" ritual, people simply played, and sledded from snow hills.

In 1990, amendments were included in the constitution, which established two holidays in the republic: 15 August - day of the Republic, and Shagaa - Meeting the Lunar new year. These holidays were included in 1993 Tuvan Constitution, and in the current one from 2001. In this way, the Shagaa holiday received the status of a national holiday."

Shagaa is the time of purification, a symbol of purity, honesty, of good and happiness. Ancient Tuvans determined the exact first day of the new year on their own hand. It is believed that the change of the night for day comes soon as it becomes possible to see the lines on the open palm of one's own hand.

New Year in Tuva is in the early spring, because the yearly cycle can be considered finished only after the lambing season. It is not by chance that the traditional Tuvan greeting (the neologism of Soviet era "ekii" carries no meaning) does not voice concern about the other person's health, but consists of a literal question of vital importance - is your livestock OK? The prosperity of all life depended on the answer.

The strength and skill of a real man was confirmed not just in the games, but also by his heroic appetite.

Rich Tuvans would donate a horse and would slaughter the fattest castrated ram - irt. The whole body would fit into a Chinese cauldron called "tos tanma" (nine infinities), which was used only for funerals or weddings. The one who survived the hospitality would win the horse.

Hospitality held for everybody on Shagaa, even the poorest arats would get food on the holiday.

According to information collected by scholar Georgiy Kurbatskiy, young people would go "caroling", to the aals, and where the hospitality was lacking, they would sing chastushkas with texts like: "Everything that you prepared for the people was hardly enough for me alone", "You did not prepare for Shagaa since the fall, probably you thought that the rich won't show up and the poor will eat anything…", or "Enough, kids, let's go away. They cooked the fat meat for themselves, not for the guests. And they even hid it, they want it to spoil, let it get rancid. We will go to the next yurt."

There were no disputes or fights on Shagaa. "Nobody pulled a knife, even though everybody had one in his belt", - writes Georgiy Nikolayevich.

Three days before Shagaa and during the month after the start of the new year, one must refrain from unseemly actions, including alcohol use. In this period, good actions are magnified one hundred times, and so are the bad ones.

It is desirable to stay awake during the night before Shagaa, even if only between 3 o'clock at night and 6 in the morning. As a rule, during those hours, people who are not in temples praying, stay at home and read stories to their children, play folk games and wait for the dawn. At dawn, the men start a fire "san", treat it by giving it food, and say good wishes for the coming year.

Dina Oyun, translated by Heda Jindrak
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Event announces

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