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Traditional Festivals and Parties in Mongolia

Read it in French: Fêtes et Festivals Traditionnel en Mongolie

Naadam

naadam festivals

 

Naadam is the most anticipated event in Mongolia, whether by foreigners or natives. It is a holiday or festival, and its origins date back to the ancient times of the Mongol hordes, as witnessed by the 9 white-tailed standards that date back to Genghis Khan. Its date was imposed by the Soviets on the days of the national holiday, from 11 to 13 July, in order to commemorate the Revolution; it takes place at different times of the year depending on where you are.

From his full name Eriyn Gurvan Naadam, the Three Virility Games, it consists of three series of event: wrestling, archery and horse racing. Mixing is required for the last two only. These three sports recall the qualities that made the pride of the Mongol hordes and their effectiveness in combat.

The struggle

This test is practiced without the notion of categories or of time; it ends when one of the two participants touches the ground. Before starting, the 2 wrestlers perform the devekh, or dance of the eagle; the loser will carry out at the end of the fight the thakimaa ogokh, whose gesture symbolizes the peace in which the two opponents separate. A player winning 5 consecutive fights receives the title of hawk -nachin, 7 elephant -zaan-, 9 lion -arslan-, and if he wins 2 consecutive Naadam, he will receive the very glorious title of Titan – avarga-. The current record is 13 Naadam. Reviews for amateurs!

    The archery

    Archery competitions date back to the 11th century; however, at the time, they were on horseback, a know-how now lost. The Mongol hordes had gained great fame thanks to their skill in bowing. Men stand at 75m from their target, compared with 60 for women. The target is composed of 20 to 30 gray, red and yellow rings placed on the ground; the archer touching the most targets is declared the winner, and receives the title of mergen.

Horse racing

Mongolian combat strategies were based on their great mobility; as a result, the horses underwent a special training every autumn, with up to 100,000 riders participating. Today, the horses of Naadam are still the object of special care. The jockeys are children aged 5 to 13; the distance traveled depends on the age of the horse, and lengthens according to their maturity. The races are six in number, and take place in the middle of nature, without track, which does not exclude any danger.

Sources: La Mongolie, by Jacqueline Thévenet; Mongolia, by Claire Sermier

The Feast of the Aigliers

Traditional festival of Kazakh eaglets, before winter
First weekend of October in Ölgii, Bayan-Ölgii; and 2nd weekend in October in the village of Sagsai, Bayan-Ölgii.
A hundred eagles come to demonstrate the talents of their eagle
Opening ceremony, parade of the aigliers and concert Kazakh inaugurates this competition of two days.
In addition to the traditional races of horses and camels, the various events show: the speed of the eagle during the test of the tail of fox; his courage in hunting wolves; and the obstinacy and strength of the eagle during the game of the kokbar, sort of buskatchi for two.

 Tsagaan Sar


” White moon ” or ” white month ” means the lunar new year, on the first day of the first falling spring moon, the date being calculated according to the year at the end of January or beginning of February according to the lunar calendar . From the time of Genghis Khan the New Year’s Day was celebrated on the first day of spring. Before the white month was in autumn, for a long time. The white color is a symbol of milk which is all that is beneficial, happiness, goodness, purity, and frankness but also that of the dairy products that represent the basic food of the nomadic breeder. Tsagaan Sar being very popular among the nomads, the celebration prohibited under the communist regime, limited because of all the religious rituals and renamed ” day of the cooperative breeders ” took again its place, today, by the immense festivities.
Preparations begin in late autumn, with provisions for dairy products. Then in the two weeks leading up to the celebrations, everyone meets at the various family members to prepare a few hundred buuz, beef or sheep dumplings that are steamed, and of donuts that make up the large obligatory plate of the table. The yurt must be cleaned, from the ground up, before the new year. On the eve of the new year, the last day of the ending year is an important day called bituun which means ” conclusive ”. The evening of the previous day is the occasion for a great festive meal, during which, each one must fill his stomach, to the best of his capacities, because it is a guarantee of satiety for the year to come. That evening, we also play games and more particularly the bones ” mori uralduulakh ” which means ” race horses ”. On the roof of the yurt is placed a block of ice, intended to appease the thirst of the mount of the god Lham, one of the tutelary divinities which is a single female. Legend has it that the night of bituun visits all the families.

On the morning of the New Year, the mistress of the yurt, raised early, prepares milk tea and “tsagaalag” boiled milk, sweetened with butter, curd and rice and served in a bowl of silver, she must proceed with a rite of the offerings – sprinkling of the first milk tea in honor of Heaven and the spirits of the place, in 4 directions of the world. It is necessary that this food of white color ” tsagaalag ” is the first consumed of the year. At sunrise, each one comes out of the yurt to trace the right direction, according to year of birth and horoscope (after consulting a monk) they take a few steps, accompanied by precise gestures, in a determined direction .

The first traditional salute of the New Year, the ritual ” zolgokh ” first in the family where the older ones lay their arms extended, palms turned down, on the extended arms of the youngest, all two, brushing their cheeks lightly, pronouncing traditional formulas of good wishes. This gesture means respect and support from the younger to the older person. We offer a khadag (sky ritual scarf) sky blue symbolizing the eternal blue sky as well as for one who receives blessing and wishes of good fortune and longevity, in honor of the older people for the greeting. After the rites of greetings, we exchange snuff boxes and gifts with the yurt master, the festive dish begins with milk tea and tsagaalag. Everyone, by tasting shimiin arkhi (milk distilled vodka) or drinking aïrag (fermented mare milk that has been preserved at the party, frozen since autumn) must make a special wish for happiness. On the table are arranged traditional “white foods” and donuts, but also the saddle of a whole boiled sheep. The buuz, steamed ravioli, ” banche ” small ravioli cooked in water or in broth constitute the main dish of the festivities. According to custom during the very first week of the New Year, everyone must visit the nearest relative to the most remote or the most important personality of the place to carry out the rite of greeting, in principle respecting the hierarchical order. Greetings can be extended for one or two weeks, even a few months later, for those who meet for the first time since the new year greet each other by respecting the ” zolgokh ” rite.

These lunar New Year days one can watch all the Mongols dressed in their best clothes, in traditional costume, men’s ornaments are precious stone snuffboxes and leather belt and saddle decorated with silver.

Buddhist religious services that take place in monasteries and the traditional wrestling event are of great importance for the celebration of the Lunar New Year. Camel races are organized in the Gobi region during the festival.

  The Feast of the Camel =

At the end of February or just after Tsagaan Sar in the village of Bulgan, Ömnögobi
The same principle as that of the Aigliers, but with camels! This festival was created to honor the declining camel population of Bactria, as important as the horse for Gobi breeders.
The trials are based on parades, camel polo, races and the skills of camel drivers.

  The Ice Festival


The 3rd day of Tsagaan Sar, on Lake Khövsgöl
This celebration highlights the end of winter and the melting of ice (and snow) to come
The ice marathon, the sumo on ice and the ice sculpture competition are open to all. The 2nd day is dedicated to a jeep rally, horse and dog sled races, and ice skating races, interleaved with traditional Mongolian winter games (ossicles on ice).

  The Feast of Tsaatans

Around 6/7 July, Khatgal village, Khövsgöl
This festival offers a great opportunity to discover the ancestral culture of reindeer herders. For many generations, the Tsaatans have reared high reindeer in the mountains, worshiped the spirits of nature and practiced shamanism. The festival presents these different aspects through concerts of traditional songs Darkhad, walking with reindeer herds, bonfires and shamanic rituals practiced in tipis.
It is also a privileged moment to share the ancestral culture of the Tsaatans, to play polo on reindeer; join a yak caravan, ride a reindeer or horseback, or take advantage of it for boating or canoeing.

    The Yack Festival


    Around 23 July, village of Bat-Ölzii, Övörkhangai
Yak races, yak catching at lasso, yack dressage, yak polo, best yack contest …
Traditional games where the spectators themselves can participate
Exhibition and sale of traditional handicrafts

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