Kyrgyz Customs and Traditions
Kyrgyzstan culture takes its roots in antiquity. Its formation was largely influenced by Turkic tribes that migrated in the early Middle Ages from the territory of the Altay and East Turkestan. Before the 20th century there was the Kyrgyz tribal division. Some of the Kyrgyz still adhere to this tradition. This can be seen even in the division of the Kyrgyz into the southern and northern Kyrgyz. Customs and traditions of the southern Kyrgyz of the Ferghana Valley and the Eastern Pamirs differ from the traditions of the northern Kyrgyz living in areas of the Tien Shan, Issyk-kul lake region and areas of the Chu and Talas rivers. The nature of the prevailing economic structure - nomadic herding and the patriarchal family life left a deep imprint on the material culture of the Kyrgyz. Dwellings, traditional clothes, food - everything is dictated by the need of frequent nomadism.
Prior to joining the Russian Empire the main type of settlement were villages, and the Kyrgyz , because of their nomadic lifestyle, moved from place to place.
But during the Soviet era Kyrgyz were gradually subside, experiencing a radical change in their lifestyle. Today most of the Kyrgyz are settled, moving to larger cities, but there are still traditional villages in the mountains and rural areas.
Traditional clothing of the Kyrgyz has undergone many changes during its development. As other aspects of material culture, the Kyrgyz clothes clearly show distinctive features that were peculiar to individual tribal and territorial groups, it is also distinguished by the unique attribute typical for the nomads. Clothing made of coarse woolen cloth of domestic manufacture, made from animal skins, felt, leather and wild animals was in common use.
The traditional costume element is a Kyrgyz felt hat - Ak-kalpak (white cap), which is characteristic for both the men's suits and dresses for women. Another element of the native Kyrgyz clothing is top felted clothing with sleeves – kementay- and white felt boots. Married women wore a loin skirt - beldemchi,with flaps converging in front. Also a coat “chapan” with a high collar was very popular among the men and women. It should also be noted that completely embroidered shirt thread “zhaka” and the traditional conical hat that ladies wore on ceremonial occasions were among the elements of women's dress. Men wore trousers of tanned leather or suede, which had several names - chalbar, kandagay, zhalgak shim. The most common shoe among the Kyrgyz were boots with high tops and narrow, slightly turned-up noses.
Family and marriage
Family and marriage among the Kyrgyz are closely related to the patriarchal way of life. It was usual for Kyrgyz culture to live together in a small patriarchal families that formed a so-called big clan with the whole family line living in the same area.
Marriage was preceded by courtship. It was a custom in the past when young children were matched, sometimes even unborn yet babies were matched. Like in many other Eastern nations a dowry asked for the bride. And even today, modern Kyrgyz follow this custom.
The birth of the baby is marked with mandatory treating - zhentek consisting of a national delicacy boorsok and bread (lepyoshka) with melted butter. A week later, the child is placed into the cradle (beshik). This event is marked with a small celebration - beshik - toy. There is another holiday arranged on the 40th day when the child wears a shirt, sewn out of 40 grafts collected from neighbors and bathed in 40 spoonfuls of water. All these rituals are intended to preserve and protect a child's life.
The spiritual culture of each nation is kept from generation to generation in the form of traditions and customs, as well as oral and written records. Due to the nomadic lifestyle the Kirghiz have not left behind so much written evidence, but from generation to generation, they passed their epics and legends.The Kyrgyz poem "Manas" is the largest piece of a heroic epic. It is a large volume trilogy, collected by many generations of storytellers – manas’chy. Until the 29th century, poem passed down orally, and even today many people come to Kyrgyzstan to listen to and enjoy the famous epic by talented storytellers. Storytellers may tell a poem during several days. The deeds of the hero Manas are main story line of the poem.
Kyrgyz culture is rich and varied. It combines more elements of the nomadic culture, but some regions of Kyrgyzstan (south) are originally agricultural. Such co-existence is unique and indicative only for the Central Asian region.