Mongolia is a landlocked country located between Russia and China. It’s an enormous emptiness that links sky and land and is one of the last few places on the earth where nomadic life is still an active tradition.
Festivals and Holidays in Mongolia
From July 11th to July 13th, the annual Naadam festival coats Mongolia. It is the biggest day in Mongolia, where the ceremony revolves around the celebration of three manly sports: horse racing, wrestling, and archery.
The Naadam ceremonies are said to have begun with the rise of the Grand Mongolian Empire. Chinggis (a.k.a. Genghis) Khan used this to keep his soldiers rigorously fit. After the fall of the empire, Mongolians held contests during religious festivals, and since the communist revolution, people celebrated it on its anniversary. Legend has it that a girl once dressed like a boy and won the wrestling bout. That is why the traditional long-sleeved wrestling attire, called “zodog,” has open chests – to confirm that every participant is male. Wrestlers wear Mongolian boots, “gutal,” and short trunks, “shuudag.”
You can watch these fights up, close, and in person at one of the many arenas in Ulaanbaatar.
White moon (Tsagaan Sar)
Tsagaan Sar begins on the Lunar New Year and is a three-day public holiday. It’s not big with tourists for the apparent reason of being during the coolest month of the year. A time when families meet and have a large meal of mutton, sheep’s tail, dairy products, rice with curds, and buuz. It is also typical to exchange gifts and drink airag.
Golden Eagle Festival
The Golden Eagle Festival in Ölgii on 5th and 6th October is the largest gathering in the eagle hunters world. The ceremony typically has 60 to 70 Kazakh eagle hunters demonstrating their skills. The attractions include having their golden eagles fly to them on request and catching a fox fur being drawn being a horse from a perch on a neighboring mountain. The event also features classical Kazakh games like a tug-of-war over a goat carcass while on horseback (Kokpar), a timed race to pick up a coin on the ground while on horseback (Tiyn Teru), and “girl chase,” is a race between a man and woman where the woman whips the man while he tries to hold on (Kyz Kuar). The festival also has a classical Kazakh concert, displays of Kazakh art, and a camel race.
Yak Festival on July 23rd in between Arvayheer and Karakorum. The festival celebrates this large mammal thriving in the cold Mongolian winters with a full day of a rodeo, yak races, and other competitions. There are tourist gers, a market, and a whole new village set up in the steppe center.
Nauryz, also in Ölgii, is the traditional new year’s festival of Kazakhs held on March 22nd. There is a concert, parade, and horse races during the numerous days of celebrating. However, most of the celebration involves visiting relatives and friends to eat soup (Nauryz Koje), horse meat, and boiled mutton.