UZBEK CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS
Uzbekistan, along with Uzbek customs and traditions, is very rich in various holidays, festivals, and events! Uzbek people love and know how to celebrate. They celebrate weddings, anniversaries, and national holidays – any festive event in Uzbekistan cheerfully, hospitably with an abundance of delicious national dishes to the sounds of national instruments and traditionally with incendiary dances.
The main public holiday is Independence Day – September 1. Two more significant holidays are the Constitution Day – December 8, and the Day of Remembrance and Honor – May 9. Some of the most significant Muslim holidays are Eid-Al-Fitr and Eid-Al-Adha.
Navruz – Oriental New Year!
One of the biggest Uzbek holidays is Navruz! The translation of “Navruz” is a “new day”. It is an Oriental New Year celebrated on the 21st March. According to historians, the holiday is more than 3000 years old. It is the symbol of nature’s awakening!
How do Uzbek people celebrate Navruz nowadays? Navruz is a family holiday; usually Uzbek people celebrate it together relatives and friends. Due to this event, the folk plant different types of trees and flowers everywhere.
Local people get ready for Navruz in advance. In every “mahalla” (neighboring community) people do “khashars” (joint works). People, united by the common task of preparing for the holiday, bring the city or village into a proper festive look. On 21st March the festive fun begins. Ladies set festive tables in each “mahalla” (neighboring community)! There is such a sign – the richer the table will be, the richer the whole coming year will be! The main festive dishes are pilaf/plov, shurpa, and samsa with the first spring herbs. Also, on the table should be a variety of snacks, sweets and fruits. But the highlight of the program on this day is a plate with sprouted wheat! This dish must be on every festive table!
From the grains of sprouted wheat, the main holiday delicacy is prepared – sumalak. Sumalak preparation process is a real ritual in which only women take part. The cooking process takes a whole day. Women, replacing each other, slowly stir the sprouted grains of wheat in a huge cauldron, which, thanks to their efforts, gradually turn into a thick, viscous brown mass.
During the cooking process, women sing folk songs about spring and Navruz. They also make sacred wishes! When sumalak is ready, our people would love to distribute it to neighbors, friends, colleagues, relatives …
Kupkari / Uloq / Buzkashi
It is one of the ancient fierce games have been played by strong and brave horse riders for many centuries in Central Asian countries.
In the past local rulers used to arrange such games to pick up the strongest and most clever guys for their armies. Nowadays it is still quite popular in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Riders contend to grab a lifeless goat to deliver it to a designated spot. Usually, short but strong horses are chosen by riders because it is easier to pick up a goat from a ground. Riders mostly wear thick cotton jackets, trousers and headdresses with ear covering parts somehow to save themselves from the whips of other exited riders.
An organizer puts expensive awards (ox, sheep, carpets, TV, car and etc.). The number riders will be minimum 20 and could reach to endless … Despite the fact that riders have different professions, they do not play this game for earning or gaining awards, but they do just for passion (like a racer getting it by driving hyper cars!)
Some travelers may mind the idea of riders’ contending for the body of a lifeless goat; however, it is considered as an inseparable part of Central Asian nations’ cultures.
It is usually held in spring and autumn during special events: holidays, weddings, etc.
Uzbekistan, once located on the crossroad of the Great Silk Road, attracts the world with its very colorful legends, ancient traditions, various beliefs, rich cultures and hospitable nation!
Rites of Uzbek people
Each of the peoples inhabiting our planet has its own rituals that have been shaped for centuries. The rites of the Uzbek people, based on the rich cultural heritage of the ancestors, have come into modern life, preserving their originality and diversity. Rituals have a special role in the life of Uzbek people. For example, such joyful moments of life as the birth and upbringing of children, engagement, and wedding are accompanied by unusually bright ancient rites.
Beshik tuyi (Cradle ceremony)
And here is a joyous and important event – a new person has appeared! In the Uzbek family, the appearance of the baby is accompanied by the ancient ritual celebration “Besik Tuyi” – “Cradle ceremony”. This rite is usually performed on the seventh, ninth, eleventh, or fortieth day of the child’s birth. On the day of the ceremony relatives of the wife bring a richly decorated cradle and necessary accessories for the child, as well as many different sweets, traditional Uzbek pies and baby toys, which wrap in tablecloth.
Sounds of black, trumpet and tambourine announce the beginning of the rite. The house gathers a large number of guests who spend at the festive table, which is made with a rich meal. And while the guests are enjoying themselves, enjoying the game of musicians, celebrating and having fun, the elderly women in the nursery perform the rite of the first hugging of the baby and putting it in the cradle. At the end of the ceremony, the child’s eyes are traditionally arranged. Guests enter the children’s room, admire the toddler and sprinkle the cradle with candies like “parvardi”, crystalized sugar – “navat” and other sweets. According to the rite, people do it so that the life of the child was joyful and safe.
Khatna / Sunnat tuyi
A child has grown up. Now he has to go through a very important ritual for him, the circumcision ceremony. It is very ancient, dedicated to Islam, the Uzbek ritual of circumcision. Boys aged three to nine years have to face it. Before the ceremony, the Koran is recited in the presence of the imam from the mosque, relatives, and dignitaries of “mahalla” (neighboring community).
Afterwards the elders bless the boy and give him gifts. After that, the festive table is laid and the ceremony itself begins – a big “celebration”. At the end of the ceremony, the guests congratulate the boy, showering him with money and sweets. And now the climax – a young stallion, adorned with elegant ribbons and rich harness, is brought into the center of the celebration. With the wishes to grow into a mighty and brave horseman, the boy seats on a horse. And at the end of the ritual, a holiday begins with abundant food, music, dancing.
Fotikha tuyi / Engagement
A son has grown up, matured, reached the age of majority – it’s time to start his own family. Mostly by tradition, parents themselves choose a bride for their son, matchmakers help them in this. The choice of the bride is taken with all responsibility, asking in detail about her family, getting to know the girl’s relatives. All! The day of the engagement is coming – “Fotikha tuyi”
On this day, guests gather in the house of the betrothed girl, among who are venerable old people and the chairman of the community. Matchmakers set out the purpose of their visit, after which the ritual “non sindirish” / “bread breaking” takes place, literally translated, this means “breaking the cake”. After completing this interesting ancient rite, the young are considered engaged, and they fix a wedding day. The relatives of the bride generously present the relatives of the groom and matchmakers – they give each a “dasturkhon” (tablecloth) with two cakes and sweets, and also give gifts to the groom and his parents. From the moment of engagement, preparations for the wedding begin.
In Uzbek society weddings are extremely significant events. The wedding consists of sub-events. First of all, the wedding day begins with a morning pilaf/plov arranged in the houses of the bride and groom, and pilaf/plov for the bride’s house is prepared in the groom’s house.
The marriage in the registry office takes place after the imam of the local mosque reads the wedding prayer and declares them husband and wife in front of God.
The key event of the wedding is the ceremony of farewell to parents, which takes place before the bride, accompanied by her friends, leaves her father’s house and goes to the groom’s house. As soon as the bride crosses the threshold of the groom’s house, the wedding celebration begins.
Numerous guests gather at the festive table. Four or even five hundred guests at a traditional Uzbek wedding is quite common. The celebration is fun, bright, and incendiary. At the end of the wedding, another ancient ceremony is held – the ransom of the bride, which takes place in a room specially designated for the young.
The groom escorts the bride to the door of the room, where she is usually met by a close family friend – “yanga”. In the room, the bride changes clothes and hides behind a special “gushanga” curtain. Accompanied by friends, the groom enters the room, where he is offered to give a ransom for the bride. Bargaining begins, as a result of which the groom symbolically redeems the bride from the “yanga”. At the end of this ceremony, the bride and groom remain alone in the room for the whole night.
The next morning, the ceremony “Kelin salom” / “Bride’s greeting” takes place. This ceremony means accepting the bride into a new family. Parents, relatives and friends of the groom gather in the yard, present gifts to the bride and bless her. The bride, in turn, greets everyone by bowing low. From this moment, a new family life begins.
Uzbek morning pilaf/plov
At what time is pilaf cooked in the morning? The ancient ritual of morning pilaf is not only a festive but also a memorial pilaf. Only men attend to it. The preparation of morning pilaf begins in the evening of the previous day, with the rite of shredding carrots – “sabzi tughrar”.
The morning pilaf itself is prepared by the end of the morning prayer – “bomdod namozi”. It is the participants in the prayer who become the first to taste the freshly prepared morning pilaf. The beginning of the morning pilaf is announced by the sounds of “karnays” and “surnays” musical instruments. The guests sit down at the tables and, having completed the rite of wish – “fotikha”, proceed to the meal. First, they serve cakes and tea on the table, then pilaf in large plates, one plate is for two people. At the end of the meal, they make “fotikha” rite again. At the end of the morning pilaf, hosts present guests of honor with national men’s dressing gowns – “chapans”.
The neighboring community – “mahalla” always takes an active part in all the main events of the Uzbek family. The principle of mahalla is independence and self-government for the purpose of mutual assistance. With a vast thousand-year experience of doing business, the Uzbek mahalla is still the center of family and household and religious rituals. The community is the keeper of customs and traditions of Uzbek people. But the mahalla is not just a mutual aid society; it also successfully performs educational functions. Generation after generation grows up under the direct supervision of the entire community. Children who grew up in the mahalla are brought up in a spirit of respect for their elders. Mostly neighbors, as a part of “mahalla”, play more important role in one’s life than his/her relatives even!
Hashar in Uzbekistan
In any mahalla there is a wonderful ancient tradition of mutual assistance – “hashar”. As they say, all over the world, the residents of the mahalla voluntarily and unselfishly help each other if necessary. You need to build a house, improve a street or district, organize a morning pilaf/plov – hashar always comes to help.
During happy and sorrow days, the residents of the mahalla try to stick together. As a rule, when someone invites for hashar, no one refuses. People work together, having time to complete a large amount of necessary work in one calendar day. And then they also organize lunch or dinner together. A wonderful oriental tradition-symbol of unity and sympathy!