Vera Doldaeva, About Zul
Vera says that the Kalmyks celebrate the following holidays: Zul, Tsagan Sar, Ur Sar and Zul. Among them, Zul is a special holiday. It is when people celebrate their birthdays. Before this holiday, people tidy up their homes and burn their old things. Men go to temples and perform a ritual to prolong life. In the past, the Kalmyks collected grasses in the steppe, dried them and cut them to be 4 fingers long. The birthday candles had to have grass stems the number of which was supposed to be the same as one’s age plus 1 or 2 extra stems. These stems were wrapped in cotton and melted butter was poured on top of them. On the day of Zul it was forbidden to kill animals. There is a belief that the more visitors one has during Zul, the longer and healthier will that person’s family members live. Vera says that in the past birthday candles were made from bran mixed with flour. These candles were the shape of small boats. Each family had to make 3 candles. They were lit at night accompanied by prayers. People over 60 might not perform this ritual. The candle with 9 stalks should be held by people who are born in the years of the Pig, the Rabbit or the Dragon until the candle burns down. This ritual symbolizes that the bad would go away and the good would come. The next day people should head in the direction of the sunrise and put on the ground some candies, biscuits, incenses and vodka. It is believed that 3 days after Zul, the Master of the Year migrates. During this period, it is forbidden to take out stuff from home or give anything to other people. Zul is a happy holiday when people sing and dance.