Custom and Tradition
Mongolian customs and traditions have grown as part of the development of central Asian nomadic civilization, passed down from generation to generation. They involve psychology, ethics, science, education, religion and family relationships. As in any other nation, Mongolian customs and traditions have their own specific distinguishing features.Mongolians have always considered childrearing and education to be the primary consideration. There is indeed a language association: the Mongolian word humuujil, meaning to educate, to bring up, is related to the words humuun, meaning human, and humuuniig hun bolgoh, meaning to make a man. Along with a healthy physical upbringing, much attention was traditionally paid to the intellectual and ethical development of a child, even before birth. It was strictly forbidden to frighten a pregnant woman, to make her unhappy or to make her do hard labour. It was also forbidden to pass a pregnant woman when walking, to swear in her presence, or even to speak in a loud voice. Such traditions came from the deep respect given to the unborn child, who might one day become an intellectual, a statesman, or just a faithful person to his family and community. The Mongol saying ‘Holiig ni doroond garyg ganzagand’ translates literally as ‘make the child’s legs reach the stirrups and hands reach the reins.’ This means that the child must grow physically able to help his parents and relatives. Children were told tales and legends, riddles and proverbs, and taught to respect parents, siblings, older people and strangers. Parents also carefully watched how the child learned and behaved, encouraging what they saw as good and condemning what they saw as bad. Children were taught to tend young animals, water horses, collect dried dung, and milk cows from a young age. For healthy growth, children were taught the dangers both of over-eating or being hungry, in addition to good manners. Particular attention was paid to toys and games to help intellectual growth, and Mongolians love to play simple games with children, such as guessing the number of shagai (lamb’s ankle bones) held in the fist; setting the alag melkhii (multicolored frog); anklebone shooting; and shagai shuurekh.