Mongolia‘s biggest festival (Naadam of the Country) is held in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar during the National Holiday from July 11 – 13, in the National Sports Stadium. Naadam Festival begins with an elaborate introduction ceremony featuring dancers, athletes, horse riders, and musicians. After the ceremony, the competitions begin. The games are Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery and are held throughout the country during the midsummer holidays. Women have started participating in the archery and girls in the horse-racing games, but not in Mongolian wrestling.
Naadam is the most widely watched festival among Mongols, and is believed to have existed for centuries in one fashion or another.
Naadam has its origin in the activities, such as military parades and sporting competitions such as archery, horse riding and wrestling, that followed the celebration of various occasions, including weddings or spiritual gatherings. It later served as a way to train soldiers for battle.
Now it formally commemorates the 1921 revolution when Mongolia declared itself a free country.
Chinggis Khan’s nine yak tails, representing the nine tribes of the Mongols, are still ceremonially transported from Sukhbaatar Square to the Stadium to open the Naadam festivities.
At these opening and closing ceremonies there are impressive parades of mounted cavalry, athletes and monks.
Another popular Naadam activity is the playing of games using shagai, sheep anklebones that serve as game pieces and tokens of both divination and friendship. In the larger Nadaam festivals, tournaments may take place in a separate venue.
Photo credit: Wild China.com.