Traditions & Сustoms
The most important element of etiquette is respect. Respect is given to elders and authority figures. Verbal respect is given by using the polite pronoun and endings, and by using the titles eje (older sister) and baike or aga (older brother). People always use these polite forms, even with close friends and relatives.
Respect also is shown physically. Men and women alike will give up their seats to elders on public transportation. A person’s position at a table also shows his or her status. Men and women usually sit on opposite sides of a table, with the eldest and most respected at the head of the table, farthest from the door.
Strangers do not usually acknowledge each other while passing on the street. Any close contact, however, such as sitting near each other on public transportation or making a transaction at the bazaar, will open the way to introductions. It is common to invite new acquaintances into the home.
Friends greet each other differently in the north and the south. In the south, men and women both greet friends of the same gender by shaking hands, often with the left hand over the heart. The opposite gender usually is ignored. Greetings are a series of questions with no pause and spoken over the other person’s greetings. Older women and female relatives often will kiss on the cheek while shaking hands. The Arabic greeting assalom aleikum is frequently used between men. Between friends it can short “salam”
In the north, greetings are shorter, and only men shake hands with each other. Assalom aleikum is used only by a younger man to an elder, as a form of deep respect. Good-byes in both the north and the south are brief.
There is less personal space than in the Western countries, and strangers brush against each other in public without apologizing. People tend to sit shoulder-to-shoulder, and physical affection is common between members of the same sex. People usually don’t form lines. Pushing to the front of a group for service is normal and inoffensive.
In the more conservative south, men and women often occupy separate rooms at large celebrations. Boys and girls do not commonly befriend each other.
Bread is considered sacred by the Kyrgyz and must never be placed on the ground or left upside down. It is never thrown away, and leftovers are fed to animals.
At the end of a meal, a quick prayer may be said. This is from the Qur’an, but it honors the ancestors. The hands are held out, palms up, and then everyone at the table cover their face in unison while saying omin.
BALANY BESHIKE SALUU (laying a baby into the cradle)
When a child is born, a ceremonial feast «beshike saluu» is celebrated. The child’s parents slaughter a sheep, lay a table with many different dishes on it and invite their relatives and neighbors to dinner. After the people had dinner and have blessed the new born child, the cradle, especially prepared for the child is brought before the elderly women who are in charge of laying the baby into the cradle. These women are very respected and wise. The parents make a wish for their child’s future: they desire the child to become as respected and wise as they are.
First, the women burn up the juniper and make «alastoo» with it. They move the burning juniper around the cradle to drive away evil spirits from the cradle. Second, the cradle is buttered so that the child can have a smooth future and live satisfied. Then all the ancestors for the cradle are placed in it. At last, the cradlesong is sung. The child is laid into the cradle.
The cradle, itself, is made from juniper or fir tree. In the cradle, the baby has warm and comfortable. It is sanitary and hygienically clean and useful for the child’s health.
NAMING A CHILD AND GIVING «JENTEK»
Naming a newborn child and giving «jentek» on the occasion of his birth is one of the Kyrgyz traditions. When a child is born, his name is to be announced loudly to all the people. According to the shariat, this rite is called «Asan chakyru’u’. Once a name is given to a baby, it should not be changed during his entire life. They say that if the child’s name is changed all the benevolences sent him by Allah will go to others with the same name.
In honor of a newborn child parents hold a toi (feast) laying a table with a plenty of food on it and slaughtering a sheep. Right after a baby is born, he is bathed and fed a little. A morsel of melted butter is prepared in advance for «jentek» (feast on the occasion of the child’s birth) and is put into the baby’s mouth. It is called «o’ozantu’u» (feeding). The same melted butter is used for «jentek». It is mixed up with sugar and oatmeal and set out on the table laid for the «jentek». Nowadays, a newborn child is given a name chosen by people close to him. But according to the old tradition to name a baby by «asan chakyru’u» is still considered to be the right way.
«TUSHOO KESUU» (Cutting the strings of a young baby)
Tusho’o kesu’u is a Kyrgyz tradition, which is held when the child is one year old, and he just begins to walk. Wishing the child’s future steps to be better and faster, or just wishing him a bright future, happiness and success in everything his parents cut a sheep devoting it to him and organize a big toi (party). They invite their relatives and neighbors.
The rule of the custom is as follows: after the guests have had a meal and given «bata» (blessing for the child) to the child, his parents invite the guests to the race competition for children. They tie up the child’s legs with a white and black striped wool cord. The children race from a certain distance. The first and second winners have the right to cut the cord and walk with the child taking him by his arms. The first winner is usually given an expensive present and knife with which he has cut the cord. The second and third winners are also given presents. The other participants are given sweets, various toys etc. the children whose tusho’os (cords) are not cut are said to be unlucky in their future life.
SUNNOT TOI (circumcision)
«Sunnotko oturgizu’u » — is a kind of medicine procedure, that helps boys and future men to be saved from sexual diseases. In ancient times this was done by the oldest man of the village with a primitive tool — a blade. Admitted age for this rite is for 2-3 year old boys. Nowadays, very often parents return to surgeons in hospitals. Also, parents slaughter a sheep and organize a big toi (feast) for relatives and neighbours.
KELIN ALUU (the marriage of the son)
Wedding ceremonies of Kyrgyz people are very special. We’ll tell you a little bit about the Kyrgyz nuptial tradition that still exists today and the difference between an old traditions and the present ones.
So imagine a young couple, who want to get married. At first, they should notify their parents and relatives about their final decision. Of course, wedding ceremonies are different in all the seven regions of our Republic, yet thei basis is the same everywhere.
After the groom’s relatives are notified about their son’s intentions, they go to the bride’s home together. There, a proposal takes place. When the two parties have agreed, the groom’s mother puts golden earrings in the bride’s ears. This means that the young couple is engaged from this very moment. Then, all decide the time and place of wedding — «Toi». The bride then stays in her parents’ home until she is taken to the groom’s home according to a special rite. The bride may be brought to the groom’s home immediately before the ceremony, or perhaps earlier in the day. In any case, even if the husband kidnapped his bride or the marriage was agreed on mutually, the bride’s parents must send a dowry — «sep». This must include new clothes for all seasons, blankets — «juurkan», pillows, special national wall and floor carpets called «shirdak», «toosh-kiyiz» and «ala-kiyiz» made of felt and cutlery also.
Modern well-to-do parents may present furniture and home appliances. After the engagement, the groom’s relatives usually start preparing the wedding ceremony. Aside from paying for the wedding, the groom must pay a ransom — «kalym’ to the bride’s parents. This sum may vary from 10 000 soms to 10 000 $, depending on the financial capacities of the groom’s side. Along with the kalym, the boy’s parents present a horse, 2-3 sheep and both parties give each other each other new clothes. These clothes are called «kiyit» and include coats, suits, dress lengths, shirts and handkerchiefs.
So the wedding ceremony begins in the palace of Weddings — «Bakyt orgosu», where they register their marriage. Afterwards, the just married couple travels around the city, visits famous monuments and lay flowers. In the evening, round about 5-6 o’clock, everybody gather as in restaurant or cafe where they continue the wedding toi with lots of presents and money in envelopes.
After the wedding, the young wife has no right to visit her own parents until, she together with her new relatives, pay a traditional visit — «otko kirgizuu», — a kind of permission to leave the groom’s house and visit the relatives. During this visit, the groom’s parents offer a large present to the bride’s mother — «sut akysy» — a cow. Symbolically, this means that they wish to replenish all expenditures that her mother has invested in her daughter from birth until marriage.
Now, after all these rituals, family life begins.