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We present to you on this page une brief introduction to the fascinating and unique Mongolian culture.



The paintings, music and literature of Mongolia are dominated by nature, Tibetan Buddhism,  and nomadism. 

Tsam dances are performed to chase away evil spirits and are influenced by nomadism and Shamanism. Banned during communism, they are being carried out again. 


Traditional music involves a range of instruments and ways of singing. In Mongolian khoomi, carefully trained male voices produce harmonic strokes from deep in the throat, releasing multiple notes simultaneously.


Traditional music and dance performances are not complete without a bit of contortionist, an ancient Mongolian tradition.



Mongolian, the official language, is a member of the Ural-Altaic language family, which includes Finnish, Turkish, Kazak, Uzbekistani and Korean. 


Since 1944, the Russian Cyrillic alphabet has been used to write Mongolian. The country has produced an enormous literature, almost none of which is known to those who speak a European language. 


Only recently have disciples translated the most important text of all - Mongol-un Nigucha Tobchiyan (The Secret History of the Mongols) - which celebrates the days of Mongolian greatness.




An old Mongolian expression goes something like: "breakfast, keep it for yourself; lunch, share it with your friends; dinner, give it to your enemies". 


The biggest and most important meals for Mongolians are breakfast and lunch, which usually consist of boiled mutton with lots of fat and flour and sometimes dairy products or rice._cc781905-5cde-3194- bb3b-136bad5cf58d_

Kazakhs who live west of Mongolia add variety to their diet with horse meat. 


Mongolians are big tea drinkers and the classic drink is süütei tsai (milk tea). Men who refuse to drink arkhi (vodka) are considered wimps, while shepherds make their own home-brewed airag, fermented mare's milk which has an alcohol content of around 3%.


Many Mongols still distill it to produce shimiin arkhi, which boosts the alcohol content to around 12%.


Tsagaan sar

A little history…


Tsagaan Sar (the white month), the first month of spring, has been one of the most important celebrations of Mongolians for centuries. This is the time of year that marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. 


The great Genghis Khan played an important role in making Tsagaan Sar a state ceremony. 

In 1207, at the hour of the mouse on the first day of the Year of the Red Rabbit, the great Khaan, wearing all his new clothes, prayed to the Blue Sky and the Vast Earth, paid respect to the elderly and visited his Mother Oulen. 


In 1216, the year of the Red Mouse, the Khaan issued a decree to reward people on Tsagaan Sar Day with gold and clothes taken from the state reserve. The Khaan also decreed to give a special title to anyone over 120 years old and to release prisoners on the day of  Tsagaan Sar except those convicted of one of the 5 cases of cruelty.


In 1723, the "Mongolian Tsaaz" (Mongolian law) declared that all governors and nobles are obliged to wear a "Jinst Malgai" (special high society ceremonial hat) and un 

"Zaht deel" (deel with a collar) on Tsagaan Sar day and praying in front of the minister 9 times with 3 prayer words each time. Tsagaan Sar is considered the beginning of the lunar calendar year.


In 1911, the political and religious leader of Mongolia,the Bogd Khaan approved a new state flag featuring the Soyombo (national symbol) on a yellow background. He ordered all government houses, ministries, the army and monasteries to keep this flag hoisted outside buildings from the 30th day of the last month of winter to the 15th day of Tsagaan Sar. Outside this period, the flag had to be kept inside buildings. 


Despite the restrictions of celebration of Tsagaan Sar during the communist  period, the millennial traditions were never abandoned and informal celebrations continued among family and relatives especially in the countryside. Since 1990, with the country's democratic changes, Tsagaan Sar has become a popular celebration across the country.


How Mongolians celebrate Tsagaan sar….


Tsagaan Sar is a celebration of the New Year, aging and the safe end of winter for animals. Tsagaan Sar is a festival of white food (food with white color:  dairy products, rice, etc.) Tsagaan Sar represents a sincere spirit of people. On this day, people cleanse their body and mind of all bad things and start a fresh clean new life. Tsagaan Sar is the day when people express respect to older people and relatives, renew friendship and sympathy with each other, and reconfirm family ties. Family and relatives gather together. 


The eve of Tsagaan Sar or the last day of winter is called "Bituun", which means "full darkness". It is a unique night where no moon is visible in the sky. On this day people eat to be really full. The belief is that if you are hungry today, you will be hungry all year round. The whole Bituun ceremony is supposed to start when it gets dark outside.


On the first day of the new year, people get up early before sunrise, wear new clothes, open the "Orkh" (the top cover of the ger roof opening) and make a fire. Tsagaan Sar signifies the beginning of spring. Although steppes are still covered with snow, the scent of spring is already in the sky. The weather for the next year is judged on the basis of the mood and behavior of the animals as well as other signs of nature. All men go over a nearby hill or mountain carrying food to make prayers and offerings to Nature. Then, men go in certain directions prescribed by the Buddhist horoscope. This ceremony is called the "muruu gargakh", which means "beginning your footprints". It is believed important to start one's way in the right direction on the first day of the new year as prescribed by your lunar horoscope in order to be lucky throughout the coming year.        


  The ceremony of greetings and vows begins inside the family with sunrise. Older people sit in the "Hoimor" (the north side of the ger) and younger family members greet them first and then greet each other. The younger greets the older by extending his arms with palms up and holding the older arms from below. Everyone greets each other except the husband and wife. Usually, people hold a "Khadag" (long and narrow piece of yellow, white or blue silk with a spiritual meaning) in their arms.

When the greeting ceremony is over, everyone sits down at the table and begins to exchange "Khoorog" (flask of snuff usually made of semi-precious stones and filled with finely pulverized tobacco). Typical words of greeting are "Daaga dalantai, byaruu bulchintai, sureg mal targan orov uu?" which can be translated as "does your two-year-old horse have enough fat on the withers (a sign of good health), is your two-year-old yak has enough muscle (a sign of power), have all your animals passed the winter safely?" and "Sar shinedee saihan orov uu? Nas suuder hed hurev?", which is used to ask an elderly person about his good health and age because people are proud of old age. Exchanging Khoorog is tantamount to expressing reciprocal friendly intentions and usually serves as the starting point for introducing a stranger. Exchanging Khoorog creates a warm atmosphere between people and starts a friendly talk that helps to learn the true heart of the stranger. People eat a lot of "Buuz" (kinds of Mongolian steamed dumplings) and drink "Airag" (fermented mare's milk). When the ceremony ends in the family, the hosts offer gifts to each person. The present symbolizes a wish for well-being, health, wealth and power. Everyone moves to the next family starting first  with the nearest oldest person ger. The celebration of Tsagaan Sar can continue for a month, but the first, second and third days are the most important.  

 Food and drink …. 

Following centuries of tradition, each family prepares the dish of Tsagaan Sar, which is the main food decoration of the table. It consists of "Ih Idee" (large dish) and "Baga" (small dish). "Ul boov" (traditional Mongolian cookie) are layered on the large dish. The number of layers must be odd. Traditionally, grandparents have 7 layers of "Ul boov", parents 5 layers, and young couples 3 layers. "Uuts", the saddle and tail of the sheep is a necessity on the table. A bigger and fatter tail is considered more delicious. Airag is the major drink during Tsagaan Sar, however, "Shimiin arkhi"  (milk vodka) and normal grain vodka accompany food as well.


DON’T during Tsagaan Sar…


- not wearing a black colored deel

- do not drink too much alcohol

- do not spend the night in another ger (or not at home) 

- do not leave animals grazing overnight (animals must be near the ger)

- do not greet your husband or wife

- do not cut your hair

- do not repair or mend old clothes

- get nothing from another ger

- do not kiss during greetings (elderly people can kiss their children and grandchildren)


Tsagaan Sar in Ulaanbaatar…


Tsagaan Sar is a prosperous holiday season in Ulaanbaatar. It has been an official celebration throughout the country since 1990. Today it is one of the most popular holiday periods for the inhabitants of the capital. 

The Tsagaan Sar National Wrestling Championship is held at the Wrestling Palace. It is one of the most important wrestling events where the winner wins the next title (the other is the Naadam, July 11 and 12).

Traffic is heavy in UB during Tsagaan Sar days. Everyone wears new national costumes and goes out to visit relatives, friends and relatives. Early in the morning, the streets of UB are full of people "beginning their footprints". The main Buddhist monastery Gandan delivers the Tsagaan Sar prayer, which is attended by the President and the Prime Minister.  



Naadam is the traditional Mongolian festival and takes place in summer. The full name is    

Eriin Gurvan Naadam (the 3 men's games). The 3 games played are wrestling, le 

archery and horse racing.

The word Naadam comes from the word "naadah" which can be translated as playing.

The main Naadam takes place on July 11 & 12 every year. Local Naadams may also be held around the country throughout the summer on different occasions.


The Naadam has been around for hundreds of years. At the beginning, it corresponded to the celebration of major events such as births, marriages or victories in battle. Since 1922, the Naadam has corresponded to the celebration of the anniversary of the independence of Mongolia 


Wrestling is the main attraction of Naadam and the favorite sport of Mongolians. There are 9 rounds and the best wrestlers can choose their opponent. There is no weight category. The winners of 5 rounds are called: Nachin (falcon), the winners of 7 rounds:  Zaan (elephant) and the winners of 9 rounds Arslan (lion). The Avarga (giant) title is awarded to wrestlers who have won the Naadam at least twice. 


Archery has also been practiced since time immemorial. But is nowadays relatively less popular. Competitors must touch small balls of felt and leather. Women and children also participate in the competition.


Naadam horse racing is an old tradition already mentioned in the secret history of the Mongols in the 13th century and by Marco Polo. The conditions of these races remained unchanged. The race takes place in the vast steppe. The races are done by age category of horses: 1 year old - Daaga, 2 years old - Shudlen, 3 years old - Khyazaalan, 4 years old - Soyolon, 5 years old - Ikh nas. The distance to be covered increases with age, for example for Ikh nas, the distance is 1 urtuu (30 kms). The jockeys are children from 5 to 10 years old or even younger (children from 3 years old can participate).

It is the performances of the horses that are celebrated and not those of the

riders. A song is sung in honor of the winning horses but also in honor of the 1-year-old horse that came last. It is called Bayan Khodood, (full stomach). It is not the horse that is blamed but its trainer. The chant says that the rider was too young, the track too bad, and at the next Naadam the horse's fame will rise like the sun to shine like gold.

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