Earlier today (29 June), the Mongolian Government decided to extend the annual Naadam holiday by making Friday (16 July) a public holiday. This means Mongolians will enjoy a nine-day-long holiday including the weekends. According to the “Public Celebration Law” – the 10-12th of July are public holidays for Naadam Festival. During the long holidays, Ulaanbaatar citizens are advised to enjoy picnics with their family and to get fresh air avoiding gatherings.
The centuries-old festival has been shifted online due to coronavirus for the second year running. But, many Mongolians have begun demanding the government to cancel the virtual Naadam and use its MNT 10 billion budget for supporting the health sector. The Covid-19 pandemic in Mongolia is worsening daily as the death toll reaches two digits and more young people are now dying of the virus. The healthcare system is now teetering on the brink, with many hospitals unable to handle the relentless inflow of patients whilst also running short of beds, oxygen and ventilators.
Separately, the National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia is advising to cancel the traditional horse racing in order to protect children from getting Covid-19. Young Mongolian boys and girls aged 7-12 compete in this ancient tradition – racing horses at top speed on the country’s vast steppes. These cross-country horse races are some of the longest in the world.
Previously, the government has also banned the mini-Naadam festivals which normally continue through July and August nationwide in 360 soums and all 21 provinces. However, it has now changed the decision allowing local governments to decide whether to hold the local festival or not after 20 July. Some provinces; namely, Darkhan-Uul and Uvurkhangai have already cancelled the festival for this year.
This year, the Naadam festival coincides with the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Mongolian People’s Revolution. Therefore, it is expected to be a huge celebration; some 350 people are expected to stay at the expansive Khui Doloon Khudag site for three days.