9 x 9 Days of Winter

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In traditional Mongolian culture, the winter season begins at the winter solstice and is divided into nine nine-day sections. People kept track of the days with a call-and-response poem that goes something like this:

What Happens During the First Nine Days?

Distilled Vodka Will Freeze

What Happens During the Second Nine Days?

Horse Milk Vodka Will Freeze

What Happens During the Third Nine Days?

The Horns of Three-Year-Old Cattle Will Freeze

What Happens During the Fourth Nine Days?

The Horns of Four-Year-Old Cattle Will Freeze

What Happens During the Fifth Nine Days?

Taken* Rice Will Not Freeze

What Happens During the Sixth Nine Days?

The Road Starts to Be Visible

What Happens During the Seventh Nine Days?

The Hills Start to Look Brown

What Happens During the Eighth Nine Days?

The Ground Will Become Slushy**

What Happens During the Ninth Nine Days?

The Warm Weather Comes

*This was explained as rice put outside up on the roof, which I don’t quite understand.

**The Mongolian word for “slushy” is nal shal — onomatopoeia, just like English.

I’d love to hear more about this from Mongolians, so please comment if you have something to add.

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Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “9 x 9 Days of Winter

  1. Pingback: Signs of Winter | janes journals

  2. what happens during 2nd 9 days is not “horse milk vodka”. There is no such thing as horse milk vodka. It is “khorz arkhi” which literally means vodka distilled three times.
    If you distill the raw material first time it becomes “nermel”,
    if you distill nermel it becomes “arz” which is stronger than nermel,
    and if you distill arz it becomes “khorz” which is very strong
    if you distill khorz it becomes “khor” or poison.

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