Tajik Traditions and Customs
“We are the people of Kazakhstan! We share the destiny of Mangylyk El, our great and most decent Kazakhstan! Mangylyk El is the national idea of one home, the dream of our ancestors. Over 22 years of independent development, chief values have been created to unite all Kazakhstani people and make the basis for our country. They are no lofty ideals. The values are the experience of the great Kazakhstani Way, which has withstood the challenge of time. They are based on shared cultures, traditions and language.” This is an extract from the speech of January 17 of this year where the Head of State addressed our people. Indeed, 130 ethnic groups are represented in the Kazakh Land; most are Turkic, sharing a laguage, culture, and roots. The Tajiks are one of the ethnic communities that have been able to preserve their authentic traditions and customs over time. The basic stages of formation of Tajik customs and traditions are directly related to the country’s historical and cultural life. Like other ethnic groups, Tajik people share many traditions with the Kazakhs. They are mostly related to child upbringing. Upbringing begins as soon as the baby is born. The Kazakhs as well as the Tajiks take special care of a new mother for forty days after childbirth. No guests come to the house during this period. It is meant to create special healthy conditions for the mother and her baby so that the newlyborn human can grow strong enough. When forty days have passed, family members are invited, and a shildekhana feast is arranged to celebrate the childbirth. A specially invited mullah gives a name to the baby, after which everybody congratulates the child, wishing him or her to become an honest man, and a piece from the Quran is read out to pay tribute to the spirits of the family’s dead relatives.
Another ancient tradition is that of puttig the baby into a cradle, which is called besik. The child’s parents ask their neighbors, old grandmothers, to perform the ceremony. The mother of the daughter-in-law is in charge of the cradle, as it is with the Kazakhs. It is made of special wood and decorated with ornaments. It can be passed over to younger generations if properly maintained. The cradle should not leave the family according a superstition. The women who come for the celebration perform the necessary rites and put the baby into the cradle. Guests are given sweets so that the baby can enjoy a sound and peaceful sleep.
When cutting children’s hair, a fringe was necessarily made to protect him or her against evil eye. When the child 4 or 5, the Hair Cutting Day came, on which the fringe was cut off. The celebration differs according to the family’s status. If the family is well off, the holidays is large-scale, while middle class families make it a little event. An elderly person should cut off the child’s hair. When the rite is over, the host invites the guests to have a meal and presents the hair cutter with a chapan and other gifts.
When the child turns 5 or 6, the circumcision ceremony, which is common for all Muslim communities, is performed. Tajik boys cannot go to school before they have experienced circumcision. The purpose of the rite is to fulfill the child’s Muslim duty; besides, it marks the boy’s growing-up.
Tajik upbringing is largely labor-based. As soon as the child’s joints are strong enough, he or she is expected to learn to work. As the saying goes, bread duly earned tastes sweeter. Tajik parents teach their children to explore their lad, to sow crops and harvest, to creed cattle and do all kinds of crafts.
The Tajiks use different methods of upbringing depending on the child’s gender. Boys are taught to be hardworking, honest, and humane, as they are expected to become the hosts of their homes. They are taught to think of themselves as of the ones to make the clan get bigger, their family’s treasure and hope.
Just like we do, the Tajiks celebrate their children’s coming-of-age and wedding with great fun. Everybody tries to think of an extraordinary marriage for his children. Compared to other ethnic groups, young Tajik couples show a low divorce rate. The only reason for divorce is childlessness.
The Tajiks have special wedding traditions. Nevertheless, before celebrating, they have to choose a bride for their sons. If a young man already loves a girl, he is expected to tell his parents. Otherwise, brides are offered to grooms-to-be. His parents consult the entire family and send the glibbest and the most eloquent relative to the bride's house. If the “ambassador” manages to arrange it, the proposal is made officially. Well-respected men come to the house for this purpose. The arrangements cover the cattle to be slaughtered for the wedding ceremony and the distribution of costs. Remarkably, it the groom’s family pays. Having agreed on the wedding details, the two parties fix a date and plan the event.
Just as Kazakh people, the Tajiks bring the bride’s dowry to her house. As soon as it is ready, the bride’s family should report it to the groom. On the date scheduled, the young man and his family come to the young woman’s house. He should be welcomed at the door and taken to a room where his bride must not be present. The groom cannot see his bride until every ritual has been performed. The wedding ceremony continues in the groom’s house. To perform the wedding rite, the veil, which the bride wears, is taken off. A special wedding tradition includes threading wheat grains. They should be kept in a pot, which is meant to symbolize abundance, prosperity, and fertility for the new family. Guests receive sweets as a symbol of a sweet and friendly relationship, peace, and consent. When the wedding is finished, the newlyweds depart to a special room walking on a piece of cloth. The latter is then distributed among the gathering as a wish for them to enjoy a celebration like that.
The Tajik people cherish their religious customs and traditions. Women never walk in advance of their husbands or call their names aloud. To call a man by first name is believed to be a sin.
Source of information: “Sons and Daughters of the Model Family”. Almaty, 2000. Sanat Publishing House