With the winter solstice having just passed, it is time to start talking about the “9 Nines” of winter. Although it has been below 0 degrees Fahrenheit for most of December, technically winter started on the 22nd of December. Here in Mongolia, from the 22nd on, winter is classified into 9 sets of nine days. Mongolians in the countryside didn’t always have the luxury of knowing the date or time so a set of “standards” were set that herders used to determine where they where in winter. Here they are:
1st 9s: Vodka made from milk freezes.
2nd 9s: Normal vodka freezes/congeals.
3rd 9s: The tail of a 3 year old ox freezes and falls off.
4th 9s: The horns of a 4 year old ox freezes and falls off.
5th 9s: Boiled rice no longer congeals and freezes.
6th 9s: Roads start to become visible through the snow.
7th 9s: Hill tops appear from beneath snow.
8th 9s: The ground gets damp.
9th 9s: Warmer days have set in.
The 3rd and 4th nine are supposed to be the coldest and then it is supposed to warm up after then. However, don’t let this list fool you. It will be well below freezing up until April or so and random really cold days will last throughout Spring. Mongolia has a 8 month “heating” season.
I’m my opinion, winter started when everyone started asking about how my winter was going and when my nose ran wild with snot every time I exposed it to the air outside. That was about mid way through November. This winter is supposed to be a cold one due to all the rain we got this summer. Kind of a Mongolian rule of thumb. Lets hope it isn’t a zuud (Mongolian word for a really harsh winter)…
Stay warm and watch where you walk this winter!