The Naadam Festival
Naadam is the biggest and yet the most favorite holiday of Mongolians. The sports played during the holiday are known as the "three manly games" - horse riding, archery, and wrestling. All Mongolians look forward to seeing the strongest wrestler, the sharpest shooter and the fastest horse in this time of the year. Naadam is held in every administration units like provinces and small towns, thus the whole festival continues over a month throughout Mongolia. However, the major state Naadam festival is held from July 11-13th annually. Mongolians all dress in their traditional outfit called "deel". The opening ceremony of the Naadam festival is a must see if you want to see the artistic culture of Mongolia such as the traditional dance and song.
The wrestling match of the state Naadam consists of 512-1024 wrestlers all across the country, whereas the one of small local Naadam has 32-128 wrestlers. The Mongolian wrestling is indeed different than any other type of wrestling in the world. There is no weight or age class in the Mongolian national wrestling. Several matches start at the same time in outdoor stadiums. Each match has two people watching the process of wrestling. These people are called "zasuul" in Mongolian. They are supposed to encourage the wrestlers and also judge who wins. The main goal of Mongolian wrestling is to take the opponent down on the ground by the elbows, knees or any other part of the body except the palms (palming is not considered losing).
Horsemanship is what Mongolians are proud of. Going back to the history, Mongolians conquered half of the world on horse back. The animal itself has become a big part of Mongolian culture and history. The biggest horse racing in Mongolia comes around July during the Naadam. Mongolian horse racing is unique as it not only test the speed of horse but also its stamina. Over hundreds of horses race in an open steppe for 8-24 kilometers. Depending on the age of the horses, the distance varies. For instance, the distance is 8-10 km for (2-3) year-old horses, 12-14 km to 4-5 year- old and 16-24 for over 6 year-old horses. We can not forget the riders who are the key role to winning the race. The riders are kids from 5- 13 years old. The training for the race horse is a very precise method inherited by the ancestors.
The next fascinating event is the archery contest. Although these sports are named "the three manly games", women are allowed to compete in the archery contest. Archery was the main way of hunting and also battling in war for the Mongolians. The distance for the men is around 75m, and 60m for women. Mongolian archery target is on the ground, making it unique from other archery sports. The shooters point high up to the sky to create an accurate trajectory to the target on the ground.