Naadam Holiday, also known as the Naadam Festival or simply Naadam, is an event observed from July 11th through July 15th each year. It is not only one of the most popular holidays in Mongolia but also one of the largest in the country.
The holiday begins on Revolution Day—a day that commemorates the country’s independence from China on that date in 1921. The festival originally spanned only three days, but in 2014, the Law on Public Holidays was amended, extending the observance to five days.
The History of Naadam Holiday in Mongolia
The holiday can be traced back to the 12th century as a festival that allowed Mongolians to demonstrate their military skill and preparedness. It remained a holiday for this purpose, but during the 17th century, the games began to include a religious component. However, the most significant change to this holiday occurred in the 1920s when it was used to commemorate the anniversary of Revolution Day.
Observing Naadam Holiday in Mongolia
Nowadays, the main focus of the festival is in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. In this city, there is a cultural fair that includes traditional music and ethnic dancing, setting the stage for the main events of the holiday. After the cultural fair concludes, sports become the primary focus.
One of the main sports celebrated is wrestling. This competition features anywhere from 500 to 1,000 participants who wrestle without shirts. This is to prevent women from covertly participating in the games.
The next sport is archery, which has been a part of the festival since the time of Genghis Khan. This is not surprising, considering the importance of archery to the Mongols. Mongol archers would often shoot from horseback, which leads to the final event of the holiday: horse racing. There are several different horse racing events held on this day.