Naadam festival, celebrated each summer, organized since many centuries ago as a test of courage, strength, daring, horsemanship and marksmanship, all necessary for nomadic people and warriors. The largest celebration is held in Ulaanbaatar starting from on July 11 for 3 days. Mongolian wrestling contests at Naadam, involving over 500 contestants, are an exciting spectacle. As there are no weight classes and 16 contests are held simultaneously, the competition progresses quickly. Before the contest wrestlers perform eagle dances to limber up and display their fine physiques. Each wrestler has a second who acts as a coach and herald to announce his charge’s heroic deeds.
Archery contest has inherited a tradition dating from the time of Chingis Khan when they were intended to sharpen military skills. Men fire 40 arrows made from willow branches and griffin vulture feathers from a distance of 75 meters and woman deliver 20 arrows from 60 meters at a target consisting of 360 leather rings fitted to a wall. In accordance with ancient custom, several men stand on either side of the target singing a folk song (uuhai) to clear the contestants and then use hand signals to indicate the results.
Horseracing is the favorite sport of the herdsmen who bring their best horses from great distances. Races, which take place on the steppe over distance from 15 to 30 km, are a test of endurance for the horses and riders, boys and girls, some as young as six years old. The races are organized according to the age of the horses. Mare’s milk is poured over the heads of the winning horses that are also honored with songs.
For more than 2000 years Mongols have been celebrating New Year according to lunar calendar. Each year of the 12 years cycle of the Lunar Calendar is named after one of twelve animals: Mouse, Bull, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake Horse, Ram, Monkey, Cock, Dog and Pig.
Still now, Mongolian New Year is a nation-wide holiday celebrated as a greeting of the end of severe winter and beginning of spring time, when nature and people awaken and are inspired for new life and deeds. After a month of preparation Mongols celebrate Tsagaan Sar with three days of feasting with their families. Tables literally drown with food. Families traditionally kill the fattest sheep in the flock and then display the boiled lower back and tail throughout the holiday. In addition there are a great variety of milk product, and buuz (beef and mutton dumplings).
Mongolians are very hospitable people. Visitors are expected to try every dish and tip a few glasses with the host. Toasts are usually made with mare’s milk wine (airag) or arkhi distilled from fermented cow’s milk. The celebration is followed by sports competitions, traditional song festivals and other events. At this time monasteries are full of people, usually wearing new dels.