Naadam Festival Celebrates Mongolian Heritage

Naadam, a sports and cultural festival, has occurred in its current form for at least 200 years. It survived Soviet occupation and preserved traditions from ancient times. The festival ‘s name invokes three manly sports. These days, the festival is less brutish than that name might imply. Women participate in archery and horse racing (they don’t wrestle) and children race horses. The drinking, indigenous singing and storytelling that accompany the events have always given the festival much of its heart, and they continue to delight natives and visitors today. The victorious wrestler dancing in Sutton-Hibbert’s first picture may exult in a manner familiar to anyone who’s watched American football, but he’s also channeling traditions unique to his country. The crowds sing victory songs to the winning horse, celebrating both the triumph and the beauty of what surrounds them.
Naadam, while celebrating land and heritage, also acknowledges current challenges. Authorities have required farmers to prepare their feedstocks throughout August and September to guard against a particularly harsh winter. Normally, many smaller naadams occur throughout the summer, each with heavy feasts and revelry. Mongolians cannot afford excess revelry these days. But ten years after Soviet occupation, they can immerse themselves in their national history.

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