June 1st, was Children’s Day in Mongolia. Children’s Day emerged in 1925, right around the time that child labor was formally frowned upon in the Western world, after children decades earlier suffered as cogs in the wheels of the Industrial Revolution. In the 50s the United Nations jumped on it, and made it an international day to cherish rugrats. Many Asian cultures celebrate their own Children’s Day as well – almost always in the spring. Each nation has its own take on how to celebrate, but across the globe, it’s a pretty good day for smiles.
Many of Mongolia’s national holidays still have ties to its Soviet Era. Children’s Day is one of my favorite “quintessentially Mongolian” holidays: it fits in with the country’s socialist past, it jives with the way Mongolians revere children, and it has adapted quite quickly into a lucrative holiday for retail. A little bit of history, a little bit of tradition, and a little bit of what lies ahead – a compelling jumble commonly found here.
You should prepare by getting stocked up on gifts for the little ones in your life. Gifts can be modest or exorbitant: a bar of chocolate, a goodie bag with assorted junk food, or a bicycle. We prefer the generic goodie bag . With 7 close in-laws with kids (some with several), we have to be fair, but also economical. Plus we’ve got our own now. Granted, she’s happy chewing on a couch cushion, but still…
After lunch with an American journalist (in town to research a water diversion project that will have a huge impact on the region), we went to check out the action at the big theatre in Darkhan, our local cultural center with a massive plaza. We had seen a modestly sized circus tent going up the day before, and the whole city was abuzz for Children’s Day. Little girls were wearing their pouf-iest princess dresses, kids were running more amok than usual, drivers had their headlights on in the daytime (a celebratory thing), and the Children’s Park was swarming with people. Milling about with the girls in tons of tulle, were emees (grandmothers) in jewel colored deels (traditional clothing).