Modern and Traditional Cultural life and Festivals

Mongolians are proud of their traditional culture and celebrate it in song, dance and festivals. Although the character of the country is changing rapidly with urbanization, every Mongolian, herders and city dwellers alike, regards his/her cultural heritage with pride. Whether you visit a country-side ger or attend a get-together in Ulaanbaatar, expect someone to start singing and the others to join in. The song may be about horses, love, mother or joys of the open steppe. Clearly, the nomadic life remains close to the heart of every Mongolian.

Cultural performances and sporting events are held year-round. Special events take place in the summer season. One of the most popular is Naadam. Its origin may be similar to the Olympic Games – developed to affirm peace between tribes through sport competition rather than warfare. Naadams are held in every Mongolian soum (province) during the months of July and August.

The grandest is the State Naadam in Ulaanbaatar July 10-13. The opening ceremony is an unworldly and never to be forgotten celebration of Mongolian culture and history.

For those who first visit naadam will be intrigued by the variety of costumes people wear, and historic information and state rituals. Therefore, a brief knowledge of what Mongolians are celebrating is useful. Every naadam pays tribute to the following historic events and the nation’s unity as a whole:

  • Foundation of the Hunnu (translated as “People”, and called by westerners as “the Huns”) empire - dated 209 B.C.;
  • Foundation of the Mongol Empire that was formed by Chinggis Khaan, the founding father of modern Mongolia - dated 1206;
  • National Liberation Movement lead by Bogd Khaan and the Independence from the Manchu –dated 1911;
  • National Liberation Movement lead by Bogd Khaan and the Independence from the Manchu – dated 1911;
  • People’s revolution of 1921 that eventually lead Mongolia to communism and modernity;
  • Democratic revolution of 1990 that secured democracy, free market economy and human rights in Mongolia.

Sporting contests follow, archery, horse racing and, of course, Mongolian-style wrestling which begins with 512-1026 contestants and whittles down to a final victor on the evening of July 12. Naadam is like nothing else you will see in the world. Be sure to bring a camera.

Because of the enormous popularity of the Naadam in Ulaanbaatar, the tickets are available only via tourism agencies. However, if you can’t book the Ulaanbaatar naadam tickets, make sure you see local naadams. As naadams take place in every aimag and soum centers (in 350 places in total), one can see a local naadam easily. Some naadam calendars are available on this website.

Mongolian modern culture is thriving. Especially in Ulaanbaatar, one can find many choices of cultural events and clubs.