Hospitality and traditional respect to elders are the main characteristics of Uzbek family. Usually, Uzbeks live in large families that consist of several generations, therefore preference is given to large houses built on the land. Tea ceremony takes considerable place in life as an element of hospitality. And tea making and sharing it with the guests are the host’s exclusive prerogative. Invitations to lunch and dinner are always accepted and you are expected to come on time. When planning a visit it is recommended to take souvenirs or sweets for the host’s kids. Usually only men are greeted by handshaking. Women and people sitting in the background are greeted by putting the right hand on the heart and accompanying this jest with a slight bow of head. During the handshaking it is traditional to ask about health, state of affairs at work and home. In rural areas in case of guest’s visit usually women don’t sit at the same table with men in order not to interfere their discussion. It is not polite to admire the women’s beauty and pay intent attention to them. Upon entering the premises shoes are taken off. It is necessary to take the place indicated by the host. The further it is from the entrance, the more honorable it is.
Ceremonies of Uzbek people have formed over the centuries as a result of complex process of merger of cultural skills and traditions of all tribes and nationalities that participated in Uzbeks’ ethnogenesis. They are quite original, bright and diverse, and go back to tribal patriarchal relations. Great number of ceremonies follows the family life and associated with birth and upbringing the child, weddings, burials.
Ceremonies associated with the birth and upbringing of kids (beshik-tuyi, khatna-kilish), wedding (fatiha-tuy, wedding) are of particular importance. Often they represent the combination of Islamic rituals with more ancient forms related to mystical practices. With adoption of Islam many family and everyday customs have undergone its influence, and Muslim religious ceremonies were introduced in Uzbeks’ life. Friday is deemed a holiday celebrated in the cathedral mosque by general namaz (prayer). Patriarchal customs continues their existence in the social life which is focused on mosque, chaykhana (tea-house), bazaar and in which only men participate.
Beshik Tuyi (wooden cradle) is a ritual celebration related to the first putting the baby into the cradle. It is one of the most ancient and widespread ceremonies in Uzbekistan. Usually, such event is held on the 7th, 9th or 11th day from the birthday of the baby. In various regions the ceremony has its specific features and depends on the family’s income level: rich families usually celebrate this event on a large scale, while families with low income celebrate it moderately. Beshik (cradle) and necessary items for the baby are provided by the relatives of the baby’s mother. Flat bread, sweets and toys are wrapped in dastarkhan (tablecloth).
Gifts are prepared for the baby’s parents, grandparents. Richly decorated beshik, dasturkhans and gifts are loaded on the car everybody together with the guests depart for the parents’ house under sounds of surnay, karnay and tambourine. According to the tradition, the baby’s grandfather takes the delivered beshik onto right shoulder, then he passes it to his son’s right shoulder, who then delivers it to the baby’s mother. In the past faces used to be coated with white flour in order to ensure that all the intentions of the guests were pure and good. Guests are invited to the guest room to the richly served table and while guests help themselves, listen to music and enjoy their time, ceremony of the baby’s swaddling and putting him into the cradle is held in the next room in presence of elder women. At the end of the ceremony guests come to the baby in order to take a look at him, bring their presents for him and throw parvarda (local sweets) and sugar squares onto the beshik. At this time the ceremony is over and guests return their homes.
Khatna kilish is another ancient Uzbek ceremony that was sanctified by Islam (Sunnat Tuyi). This ceremony is held among boys of age of 3, 5, 7, 9 , and rarely age of 11-12. Performing the sunnat is controlled by the community. From the moment of birth of a boy parents start preparations for the sunnat-tuyi by purchasing necessary items gradually. Several months prior the ceremony which also colled «wedding» («tuy») immediate preparations for it start. Relatives and neighbors help in sewing the quilts, preparing the wedding gifts. All these stuff are ordered to be done by women with many kids. Before the event the Qur’an is read in presence of elderly people from the mahalla (neighborhood), imam from the mosque and relatives. Table is set for the event, then suras from the Qur’an are read, and elder people bless the boy.
After this the «great» wedding starts. Before the «wedding» the boy is presented gifts in presence of neighbors, elders, relatives. In the past there was a tradition of granting the foal, on which the boy was seated to mark that from then he was the men-warrior. Everybody congratulates the boy and give him money and sweets, then all this process continues in the women’s part as well. The same day the ceremony of putting together the quilts, pillows onto the chest-box («takhurar») is held among the women and this is done by a woman who has many kids. Lavish entertainment including pilaf ends the ceremonial. According to the tradition, after serving pilaf, the fire is set in the yard in the evening, and people dance, set various games around the fire. The celebrations continue on the next day.
Ceremony of the morning palov is held during the wedding (“sunnat-tuyi” or marriage ceremony) and commemoration ceremonies ( 20 days and 1 year after the date of death). Organizers of the wedding appoint the date and time of the morning palov, having agreed preliminarily with the mahalla community or quarter’s committee. Invitations for this day are sent to relatives, neighbors and friends. In the evening, one day before the event the ‘sabzi tugrar” ceremony (slicing the carrot)is held which is usually visited by neighbors and close relatives. After the ceremony all participants are invited to the table. Usually, performers are also invited to the “sabzi tugrar” ceremony. At the table during the feasting elders distribute the duties among the present. Morning palov should be ready by the end of the morning prayer – “bomdod namozi”, because the participants of such prayer should be the first guests. By the end of the morning prayer the sounds of karnay, sunray and tambourine announce the start of the morning palov serving ceremony.
Guests take seats around the tables and after reading the fotiha (wishes) flat bread and tea are served. Just then the palov in lagans (large plates) are served – one for two. After the feast the lagans are removed, and guests again make a fotiha, and having thanked the host, they leave. Upon their departure the tables are fixed quickly for reception of new guests. Morning palov ceremony usually lasts for one and half – two hours. During this time the invited performers sing songs. At the end of morning palov the honorable guests are given gifts – usually these are chapans (traditional men’s robes). Commemoration palov differs from the celebration one by that the guests having taken the seats read the suras from the Qur’an and commemorate the passed away person. The feasting is finished also by reading suras from the Qur’an. Performers are not invited to the commemoration ceremony, and tables are fixed more moderately comparing with celebration. One should note the specific feature that the celebration and commemoration palov ceremonies are served only by men.
Nuptials are held with permission and blessing of parents and is held in several stages. When one’s son comes of age, parents start searching the suitable girl for him. Close relatives, neighbors, friends are involved in this process. Having found a girl, aunts by mother or father come to the girl’s house under some excuse, in order to look at her, to get acquainted with her parents and home settings of potential bride. After this neighbors and friends gather information on the family of chosen girl. In case of positive references, matchmakers are sent. Fatikha-0tuy (engagement) is one of the major rituals in matchmaking. Matchmakers designated the day of engagement.
On this day mahalla’s elders, chairman of the mahalla, girls are gathered in the bride’s house. When intermediaries explain the goal of their visit, the ceremony of «non sindirish» (literally «breaking the flat bread») will start. From this moment the young people are deemed engaged. «Fatikha Tuy» finishes with appointing the wedding day. Each intermediary is given the dastarkhan with two flat breads, sweets, and presents from the girls side for the groom and his parents are forwarded. Upon return of intermediaries to the groom’s house the trays with presents are accepted from them, and the «sarpo kurar» ceremony (presents show) starts. Usually, dastarkhan is unfolded by a woman with many kids. All present enjoy the cookies and sweets brought from the bride’s house. This ceremony completes the engagement ritual. From the moment of «fatikha tuy» and until the wedding ceremony the parents of the young people resolve issues related to dowries and organizational issues related to the wedding ceremony. Several days prior to the wedding party the «kiz oshi» ceremony («girls only party») is held in the bride’s house, to which the bride invites her close friends and relatives.
Wedding ceremony has traditionally exceptional place in Uzbeks’ lives and is celebrated with particular splendor. While having common features, this ceremony still has its specific aspects in various regions. Brides transfer from her parents’ house to the groom’s house is the main moment of the weeding cycle. On the wedding day the wedding palov is served to the guests at the bride’s house, and such palov is cooked in the groom’s house and then sent to the bride’s. same palov serving is conducted at the groom’s house as well. On the wedding day the mosque’s imam reads the “Hutbai Nikoh” (Prayer on Nuptials) for the young couple after which the latter are announced the husband and wife before the Allah. Imam explains the rights and obligations of the husband and wife to the couple. Usually, after ceremony of nikoh the couple goes to the Wedding Registry Office for registration of their civil marriage. On the wedding day the goom puts on the new clothes at the bride’s house (clothes and shoes presented for the wedding), then the groom goes to the bride’s parents to greet them and get their blessing. Upon return of the groom and his friend, the bride arrives as well. Before sending the bride to the groom’s house the ceremony of bride’s farewell with her parents takes place at the bride’s house. She is accompanied by close friends. The sing songs (“Ulanlar”, “Yor-Yor”).
The wedding party starts with the greeting of the bride at the groom’s house. After the wedding party the groom sees the bride off to the room for newlywed. “Yanga” (usually woman close to the bride) meets her in the room, bride changes clothes and prepares for meeting the groom staying behind the curtain (“Gushanga”). Some time later the groom accompanied with friends appears at the entrance of the room and accompanied with “yanga” he approaches the curtain, where the bride waits for him. In order to see the bride, the groom should symbolically purchase her out from “yanga”, for which the negotiations are set. Then the groom and the bride are left alone for the night. Early in the morning the “Kelin Salomi” ceremony (“Bride’s Greeting”) starts. By the beginning of the ceremony the groom’s parents, all close relatives, friends and close neighbors gather in the yard. Everybody approaches the bride by turn with their wishes, gists and blessings. Bride is obliged to greet each of them by bowing lowly. Thus the celebration finishes and family life begins.
Most young people in Tashkent officially register their weddings in special government offices called “Bakht Uyi” accompanied by their friends and close relatives. It is fashionable to arrive in stretch limousines. Before or after the registration they usually make excursion to one of the well known sights in the city (On Fridays one may see a convoy of luxurious Mercedes cars of wedding couples putting flowers on the monuments of heroes). The Islamic Nikoh takes place mostly at the home of the bride when the certificate of official registration is shown (This is by decree of Uzbekistan Muslim Board).
Quda oshi and navcarlar. It is tradition to give a big pilaw to people on the wedding day in the home of the girl. Later it became a tradition to make pilaw for people at the groom’s home too. Nowadays it is customary to have only one pilaw and for the parents of the bride groom to provide this. On the wedding day the bridegroom and his accompanying friends visit the house of the bride. They eat pilaw there in a specially prepared room where they will eat 9 kinds of meals served by the wives of her brothers or other relatives. After eating the meals amid humor and laughter, the friends of the bride groom will pay a symbolical amount of money to support the function. In Tashkent this ceremony is mostly held in homes. Most people invite musicians to the function and they usually play classical music and sing classical songs.