Monday, May 28, 2012

Kiçik Toy

The Kichick Toy (the small wedding)

Last week I went to what will surely be my one-and-only kichick toy, or little wedding.  Given the demographics of the people I know, my friends and associates, it’s not too likely I will be invited to another, let alone even know anyone else who will be celebrating a kickick toy.  You see, a ‘little wedding’ as it is known here is not at all about a couple marrying.  Instead, it is the celebration of a young boy’s coming of age…his ritual circumcision.  Sometime before the onset of adolescence, Azeri boys are honored with a party, celebration, and gifts, known as the kichick toy, the small wedding, in preparation for his circumcision.  It can involve a party in the home with family and friends, or a very large celebration in one of the special restaurants, known as ‘celebration or wedding palaces,’ designed to elaborately serve huge receptions for such occasions.  In honor of my host family’s son, Ibrahim, now eight years-old, a large reception, with at least two-hundred fifty family, friends, and colleagues and associates of the parents in attendance, was held for him last Sunday at a beautiful ‘wedding palace’ restaurant.
 Playing in the courtyard, while adults get ready
 Even the neighborhood geese sense something is up
 Arriving at the family home for the big event
 Big sister poses
 Ibrahim gets last minute attention to his attire

First of all, the family members gathered at the family home, and being considered one of the family, I arrived several hours before the actual celebration was to begin at the wedding palace.  There I met some of the relatives I already knew and met about fifty more!  Some, like the grandfather and great-uncles of Ibrahim, came from Moscow and Russia to be in attendance.   (With huge unemployment among males in the regions outside of Baku, many male family members work in Russia to support their families back home in Azerbaijan.)   The house and garden was bustling with relatives scurrying about to  get ready for the celebration…clothes were being pressed, last minute adjustments to hair-dos and make-up, and finally all the relatives were ready for the procession to the wedding palace.  But first some musicians arrived and in the patio area of the house, they struck up some familiar Azerbaijani music on traditional instruments, with sounds that are distinctively Middle Eastern.  Soon dozens of family members, including little Ibrahim, were dancing the traditional Azeri dances in the patio.  Then it was time to leave for the wedding palace.
 Musicians in the courtyard of the family home provide a little pre-function festivities for the family and relatives
 Warm-up dancing in the courtyard to typical Azeri music
 Ibrahim and his attendant lead the Azeri dancing
Everyone piled into various cars for the short ride to the wedding palace.  Ibrahim, of course, was in the lead car, together with his attendants—two friends and his nine year-old sister.  The car was decorated like a wedding car, with red and white tulle streamers and bows on it.  It was driven down the middle of the road, horn blaring, followed by my car and all the other cars with family and relatives, each also honking horns.  When we arrived at the wedding palace, we all went inside to find seats at tables still available, since all the other two hundred or so guests were sitting at tables waiting.  Once everyone was seated, just like at a marriage wedding, Ibrahim and his attendants made a grand entrance up through the center of the room to the specially decorated table on a small stage in front of the large reception hall, reserved especially for the one(s) being honored.  Opposite was the stage for the musicians, who were already playing (very loudly!) the typical Azerbaijani music.
 The wedding car
 Ibrahim wishes he could drive it himself
 The wedding palace
 Ibrahim and his attendants sit at special table on stage at front of the hall
 The musicians perform typical Azeri music, and inordinately loudly, so that at least one little girl and old woman at my table both had to stuff napkins in their ears to soften the volume of the music
 Proud family
Soon the many waiters came out carrying the first courses of the elaborate feast.  As with any wedding palace celebration, the meal always consists of “national dishes,” served in specific order.  To begin with, the national salads—Capital Salad and Mimosa Salad, which are variations of potato and cooked vegetable salad in mayonnaise dressing, similar to Russian Salad--along with condiments of pickles, olives, and pickled cabbage are on the table, as well as fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and plates of ‘greens’—green onions and herbs.  Soon other national dishes are brought out—roasted chicken or fish with fresh herbs of dill, mint, parsley and cilantro, followed by beef or mutton stew, and then of course the grilled mutton or beef kebabs.  But the main dish—the plov, or special rice pilaf with dried fruits—is saved for last, and elaborately and ceremoniously served…waiters in traditional costume carrying torches escort the ‘plov dancer,’ a male waiter carrying a platter of the plov in one hand while dancing to Azeri music, as he enters the hall.  Between the various courses served, different groups of people—mother’s relatives, father’s relatives, relatives from Russia, groups of colleagues and associates-- come to the front of the hall, say words of congratulations over the microphone, and dance in groups to the Azeri music.
 Ceremonial entrance of the national dish...the plov
 the plov dancer...
 carrying the platter of plov, set a-flame

This being a ‘wedding’ for a young boy, a special surprise was at hand when two clowns showed up to help encourage all the youngsters in attendance to dance, especially after the balloons fell from the ceiling, the bubble machine was turned on, and the confetti spewed over the dance floor.
 Dancing with the clowns

 Ibrahim on top of uncle's shoulders
 Meeting with guests who came all the way from Russia (and America!)
 Enjoying the dancing and the Azeri music

Throughout the entire festivities, Ibrahim’s mother and father roamed the hall as host and hostess—the father strolled up and down the rows of tables for male guests, and the mother the rows of tables for female guests.  As is typical, females sit at tables on one side of the hall (with bottles of juice and water) and males on the other side (with bottles of wine and vodka).

At the very end the fancy ‘wedding’ cake is cut, and after about four or more hours of celebrating, the family goes home.  Many others leave earlier.  And the actually *event* being celebrated—the circumcision of the young boy—well, that is reserved for later in the week, in the privacy of the family home and attended to by a specially trained person!
 Azeri dancing with family members in the courtyard of the family home

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