Ten Kazakh Traditions That Stun The World
In Kazakhstan unlike other countries of the modern world where traditions are in the past, here the centuries long lifestyle help solve many difficult problems in a sensible way, that would seem to the Western world as most complicated – starting from marriage and communicating with relatives up to the relation with nature and life.
Respect to Nature
- To appeal to universe and ask for some rain in drought, people before would collect money for an animal to sacrifice, flour and other foods from the whole settlement. The offering ceremony was done in an open space near the water.
- Kazakhs would never allow beating or harming a horse, a sheep, or camel, instead creating for them comfortable conditions, caring and providing them with items against evil eye.
- Put out fire with water, or spit into it or stepping over were considered as blasphemy. With the help of fire, mothers of sons were blessing the brides (they were warming the palms of hands and would touch bride’s cheeks, which meant they were dispelling unsettling thoughts and bad spirits).
Unique Attitude to Children and the Elderly People
- The place at the table where the old people sit or places in yurts where they sleep always remain unoccupied. One can’t take it up while young.
- There was always a tendency to give children loud and bright names. It was considered that a serious approach to naming a child would help him in his life. For instance, naming a son as ‘Kuanish’ (Joy) would assure parents that a child will be happy.
- A little 10-year old boy was trusted to look after lambs. Here comes a Kazakh saying ‘lamb’s age’. In the age of 13, more serious work was given – to shepherd the sheep (‘sheep’s age’). Further, ‘horse age’ – between 13 – 20. And ‘king’s age’ will reach a Kazakh man in his 40’s. In this age, a man can aspire to ruling the country. A strict hierarchy was bringing up tolerance, self-control and respect to elder ‘workers’ in people.
One Should Fight for a Happy Marriage
- After groom’s parents found a bride for their son, previously gathering all necessary background information of the girl, her genealogy and her reputation, then they needed to pay ‘kalim’ to side of the bride. In poor families ‘kalim’ would make up no more than 5-6 heads of cattle, and among the rich the number could get up to 1000 horses.
- If a young man did not have enough means to pay for the bride or parents were against, then he went for a desperate step – kidnapping. Today this custom has almost disappeared.
Respect to Guests
- Most precious guests could be gifted a horse, camel, carpet, cold steel, coat or hand-made dressing gown. For guests of the elderly age, special meal would be prepared, showing endless respect. Guests were divided into three types: specially invited, casual and unexpected ones. Guests could be asked to sing a song, or recite a poem and as a rule, no one refused, as it was an expression of respect towards the host. New neighbours were invited to the house in order to get to know them better and always there was an attempt to help – with food or household things when needed.
- Guests were offered ‘white treats’ as Kazakhs would call them. This was milk, kumis (fermented horse’s milk) or ayran. It was called ‘white’ as it was the color of honesty and devotion.
The Kazakh culture is very rich and diverse.
During the formation of the Kazakh nation specific musical traditions appeared. As a result the rich musical culture was determined. The rituals connected to the child’s birth, weddings, funeral repast, usually were accompanied by singing. The favourite performance of the people became aytys of akyns. Folk music was based mostly on diatonic major and minor rhythms of seven tones.
Dance culture of the Kazakh people has been known since ancient times. The dances comprehensively reveal the life of the Kazakh people, his love for art. In the musical folklore the performance of songs, dances, songs accompanied by dances on the stage preserved. The holidays on the occasion of the end of labor year, and it starts are widely spread. On festivals, weddings the performers took part in the competitions and demonstrated to the audience their dancing skills. Pair dances of girls and men (Koyan-Burkit) are popular among the Kazakhs. Such dances are rarely found in other eastern nations.
From ancient times the Kazakhs lived in the yurts. Yurta is adaptated to the nomadic life, it is very useful dwelling while moving and it satisfies the requirements of the nomadic way of life: it is mobile, easy pulled down and fast set on a new place. It can be regarded to the large achievement of the material culture of the Kazakh people. Today yurts are set on summer pastures, and during the festivals in the cities. Yurta is the connection between past and present.
The national outerwear of the Kazakhs is different depending on the region. Men wear chapans (it is men’s clothes resembling the robe with a belt, made from velvet and decorated with the embroidery), and also soft tyubeteikas, high felt caps or hunting earflapped hats of the fox fur (malakai). Women’s national suit consists of white cotton or colour silk dress and the embroidered velvet waistcoat, hat or silk headscarf. Old married women cover their heads with kimeshek (white cloak) and leave the face open. Brides put on high, pointed, richly decorated hat – saukele, with the bunch of feathers on the crown.
Nauryz (New Year) is the most important holiday among the Kazakh festivals. It is celebrated on 22 of March - day of vernal equinox. On this day, the streets of cities and villages look different. The guests are met in the holiday yurts and treated with the ritual dish "Nauryz koje" cooked from seven traditional ingredients.
Games and festivals always had a great public importance. Their appearance belongs to ancient times. In their development they passed a number of the successive forms, aligned with the public relations and business activities of the people. Games and entertainment always performed the social functions, such as educational, military and sport, ritual, spectacular and aesthetic, communicative and others.
Military and sport games performed the wide and universal function. The games were connected to military way of life (wars, invasions, armed conflicts) and business activities of the people. The games were saiys, audyryspak, jamby atu, altyn kabak, horse races, kures and others. The part of the games and entertainment carried the ritual and ceremonial functions, included to the system of funeral and sepulchral rites, as well as marriage. Many of them lost their first essence, they developed and degenerated. The examples are alaman bayga and kokpar.