Mongolian Birthdays

by sumpteretc

Mongolians have two kinds of birthdays: one for children and one for the elderly.

By Mongolian tradition, they count from the time when the child is conceived, and consider a newborn child as already one year old, which they call the “nominal age.” Traditionally, a child’s relatives and friends gathered a year later to celebrate the anniversary of his or her birth, but in modern times, people celebrate the child’s birthday every year.

At the child’s party, vodka is little used, and the birthday child invites many other children and entertains them with food and drink. At this time of ceremony, they seat the birthday child in the honored part of the house while they celebrate; they also have the tradition of blessing him or her.

When a male child turns five, they prepare a special saddle and give him a good horse. On the child’s birthday, they put the new saddle on the horse, and the father first mounts the horse, then dismounts and puts his son on the horse. The child then sprinkles the horse’s head and rump with fermented mare’s milk, and drinks the rest. The father
leads the horse by its reins around his corral three times clockwise and speaks blessings. He says that his son has reached five years of age and the time has come for him to ride a horse, by which he wishes him the blessing of becoming a good herdsman with much livestock.

According to Mongolian tradition, children, relatives and neighbors celebrate the 70th, 85th and 90th old age anniversaries. They celebrate these in summer time by preparing fermented mare’s milk and dairy products and holding a small festival with wrestling and horse racing. In modern times, the 50th and 60th birthdays are also celebrated. This not only marks the person’s old age, but also is a ceremony of marking the good fruitful work he has done for his country. There are two kinds of ceremonies for a person’s old age anniversary—official and ordinary. At the time of the old person’s birthday, people speak blessings and give mementos to that person.