Mongolia

By: Fareeha Ahmad

Basic Facts

  • Population: 2,992,908
  • Capital: Ulaanbaatar
  • Head of State: President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj
  • Head of Government: Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg
  • Government type: semi-presidential republic
  • Languages: Khalkha Mongol, Turkic, and Russian
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Sports and Entertainment

The Three Main and Traditional Sports in Mongolia

Mongolians love their sports, but they have three sports they love most of all and those are: wrestling, horse racing, and archery. Mongolians love horse racing/horseback riding, but they also think it is a life skill. That is why many Mongolians start to learn how to ride a horse around a very young age. Wrestling is also a sport that Mongolians start to learn at a young age. Some kids who are very talented at wrestling go to camps to learn more about their skills and what more they can do. They also learn the wrestling stance which is a mix of a lion and a bird. Last, but not least is archery. Archery is enjoyed by both women and men. There is no specific or special bow and arrow made for each gender, everyone uses the same bow and arrow. The bow is made of sinew, horn, bark, and wood. Bone is helped to make the arrowhead of the arrow. All of these three sports are enjoyed equally in Mongolia.

Games

Kids enjoy many games, and to play many games they use shagai. Shagai are ankle bones from sheep, goats, and other animals. Shagai are used as dice, playing pieces, for a game like jacks, and much more. One specific game they use shagai for is called shooting bones. There are lots of ways to play this game. One way is to take anklebones of a lamb and call each side of the anklebone a name. The names are: horse, camel, goat and sheep. There can be many players to this game and all you have to do is shoot a bone at any target. Players take turns, and at the end of the game, the player who has the most bones wins.

Other games kids like to play is a game involved with horses, but it doesn't involve shagai. Kids like to take a horse from it's herd and then race it back. Some kids even like to lasso the horses back to the herd.

Folktales

Folktales are a huge part of Mongolia. Folktales hold values and beliefs in them for the Mongolians. Not only is it a very big tradition in Mongolia, but it is entertaining as well. Many people go around the country telling stories to other Mongolians. In return they get money for food and shelter. Folktales usually have animals that act like humans in them. Stories usually have snakes or hedgehogs as the evil characters; lions, dragons, elephants and garudas (a mix of eagle and man) as the strong characters; and horses as the smart, and magical characters.

Music and Dance

Mongolians have a blast with music and dancing. They have songs split into two groups: short songs, and long songs. Short songs can be sang at anytime, and they are usually about life, nature, and love. Long songs are usually sang and danced to during holidays and festivals. Mongolians love their music so much, they decided to create an instrument with their own selves. They use their throat, tongue, and nose to develop a sound they call khoomi. Other instruments they love are the limbe, and the morin khuur. The limbe is like a flute made with bamboo. The morin khuur is a fiddle with two strings and the head is shaped like a horse. They say that this instrument connects with your inner most feelings. The instrument is typically played with someone singing a long song.

Dances include ballet, folk dancing, and Bielgee. Ballet and folk dancing is enjoyed a lot. Folk dancing is done at festivals. Bielgee, meaning Dance of the Body, is usually danced by a thin girl. This dance usually only uses the hands and head because this dance used to be done in Mongolian homes called gers.

Culture

Holidays

There are many, many holidays the Mongolians like to celebrate. One is Tsagaan Sar or New Years Day. When the sunrise begins the family goes and meets the oldest person in the family. The family places their hands on the elder's elbow and the elder puts their hands on the person's arm upward. This movement is called zolgoh. During this holiday Mongolians have dinner with the whole family. Some like to visit lamas (Buddhist priests), and many eat buuz, which are meat dumplings. Some of the dumplings are stuffed with vegetables, and are believed to be the lucky ones. There is a time where family members greet each other and send good wishes.

Another big holiday is Naadaam. Naadaam is a festival where people travel all around the country, ending at Ulaanbaatar, the capital. The biggest celebration would be done in the capital. During the celebration, people gather in their national stadium to see the excitement of sports. They see the three main sports I listed above. Many wrestlers come to test themselves. Around 512 to 1,024 wrestlers participate. Once horse racing begins the crowd is excited. Riders are as young as five. Girls and boys both participate. There is a big course that is ten to twenty miles. First, the riders ride around the stadium and then race into the country, finding many obstacles along the way. The winning rider does a lap around the stadium once more, goes to the center, receives a drink called airag, drinks some, and finally throws it on to the horses. The riders that didn't win still get a chant and words of encouragement in their honor. Then comes archery. Women and men both participate and compete against each other. When the target is shot the judges sing a song of praise. The winner of archery has the title of "sharpshooter".

Believe it or not, there is a holiday for a child getting their first haircut. It is believed that when a child gets their first haircut the child has passed the dangers of childhood. There is a big party held with food set out. When all of the guests are eating, the child walks around and holds out some scissors to a guest. The guest cuts a small strand of hair and dumps it in a blue silk bag. Then, they give the child a present or money. Every guest gets a chance to do this, while they enjoy their food.

Mongolian Hair Cutting Ceremony
Food

Mongolians love their dairy and fat meat. Meat is usually eaten at dinner while dairy is for breakfast and lunch. Bread is also served daily with tea. Mongolians grow their own veggies as well. They grow cabbage, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and onions. These veggies are put in a main dish or noodle soup. Buuz is a traditional food Mongolians love to eat. It is a meat dumpling with onions, cabbage, and garlic. Buuz is steamed, but when it's fried it's called huusher. Khorkhog is another loved dish in Mongolia. It is usually done for holidays. Sheep or goat can be used for this meal. When Mongolians cook this meal they put some flavor into the meat, and then cook it on coals. A favorite drink Mongolians love is milk tea. They keep a big pot in their ger just for milk tea. They use tea leaves and boil it in the pot, then they add milk, butter, and salt into it. Your delicious cup of tea is ready after a good mix. This is only a few of the things Mongolians love to eat, they have many other favorites too.

Clothing

Traditional clothing for the countryside is called the deel. It is a robe that is buttoned up, and has a belt to tie it up. The belt is usually blue, white, red, or yellow. Trousers and pointed boots are worn underneath. The boots are very large because when it gets cold, people can stay cozy by putting things like fur into the boots. The deel has sheepskin or red fox fur on it during the winter too. In the summer, men wear western/Russian-style hats. In the city, people wear clothes like us. Kids wear t-shirts, coats, jackets, and jeans; men wear suits, shoes, and shirts; and women wear dresses. Although people in the city don't wear deels daily, they do have one set out for holidays.

I hope you enjoyed learning about Mongolia as much as I did!

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