Friday, September 25, 2009

Turkish wedding and Bayram.

For all of you who dont know, I am currently in İstanbul for a wedding of one of my aunts, and also for Bayram.
Bayram is a 3 day Muslim holiday that celebrates the end of Ramazan. Its kind of like a mix between Halloween and Christmas. In Turkey, respect is very important. When you meet a elderly person, to show great respect you kiss their hand and place it to your forehead. They will LOVE you if you do this. During Bayram though, you kiss everyones hand that is older than you, not just elderly. When you do this, they give you money!! Easiest 50 bucks I have ever made!! haha. Kids also come to your door and trick or treat. During Bayram you visit all your loved ones. Its all about spending time with family and enjoying eachothers company. And eating! Since Ramazan has just ended everyone wants to eat eat eat. We had A TON of baklava!
On the first night of Bayram we also had the pre-wedding party. We had all of the Grooms family over and served them food. Then it was time for traditional dance. I was quickly pulled into a side room and taught the most basic form. Basicly, its 3 steps to the side, kick, 3 steps to the back, kick. While doing this you hold pinkies with the person next to you and sort of shake your hand in a complicated way I couldnt figure out. The end person waves a little scarf, and at what seemed to be random times to me, we hissed. I stumbled my way through this dance, but am now informing you that I will not join the traditional dance club at school as I was intending. As we danced, the lights were turned off, and the bride and groom came out in traditional dress. The bride was wearing a red dress with gold embroidery, and a read veil to match. Behind her was a woman carrying a bowl of henna with candles in it. The bride sat and opened her hands, where large circles of henna were placed on her palms. They then placed gold in the henna, she closed her hands, and they were put inside little red baggies. Later we all got henna circles on one of our palms.
The next day was wedding day. We all went and got our hair done. After my hair was done, Ezgi and I were looking through a bridal hairstyle book. In the back there were bridal turbans too. I never thought about what a Muslim bride wears.
The wedding was very different from an American wedding. No vows or anything. Because Turkey is a secular country, no preist or Muslim religious man (?) is needed. I was wondering- even in non-relgious families in the US usually have a preist for vows. Is that required? As far as sealing the deal, the bride and groom just signed some papers in privite. The wedding was really more of an excuse to have a big dance party. Most of the night was danced away in traditional dances I didnt even dare to try. They, of course, also had a very dramatic enterance (with fireworks and humorous glatatior music) that made us all laugh. For a long time the bride and groom stood up front wearing read scarves that people would come pin gold and money to. This money was to help them begin family.
Last night we went to dinner at a more conservative families home. This may sound weird, but everything in their home seemed to say muslim, right down to the lilac colored walls. My family is not practicing the muslim religion so it was different for me. THey were very kind and enjoyable. Although some of the time we spent there was divided between sexes, it oddly didnt bother me, and it didnt seem to bother anyone else either. They seemed plenty happy with their lifestyle, so who am I to say it is wrong? You kind of just have to leave your judgements at the door.
It been really great being surronded by all my host families family. It is very large- 7 girls and 1 boy.You add in grandpa and all the spouses and children and you get a pretty big party. They are all pretty young, and very turkish- loud, expressive, and extremely friendly. Each night we have one big sleepover, and sometimes even enjoy a meal on the floor. One day we were on the way to a mall when a little boy came to our car window and tried to sell us kleenex. My Amca turned up the music, pulled out the exact same kleenex the boy was selling, and began to crazily dance with it. The little boy sure didnt know what to think, but it really made me smile.
Something right now that I am really struggling with is trying to find a balance between the Ambers. How to be an American here, and be true to my beliefs, while trying to be Turkish and fit in with them, and be open minded about their beliefs is a challenge. Hopefully that is something that will work itself out in time.
Much and best wishes to all of you, Amber


  1. Amber, your description of the wedding is wonderful. It sounds like you're having a unique adventure. I like the story of the slumber partys at all the relative's houses. And I am sure they think it is interesting to have you there with them. Do any of them speak English? Are you able to communicate very well?
    Also, I am now wondering if you will try to practice Byram on us when you get home. It sounds like easy money! But we'll be so happy to have you back that we will probably say - anything you can have ... Love you M

  2. Amber, I really enjoy reading your blog. I was an AFS student in '99-'00, and I went to USA from Turkey. I love reading about the mirror-experience you are having. Cherish your time there.

  3. What a great time that must have been...I like how family oriented everything seems to be...and no harm in having a big party :)

    and i truly believe that your two selfs will find their way to combine and make your TRUE self a much deeper and insightful person.

    miss you tons!

  4. Hello. I'm currently in 9th grade and I'm really interested in studying abroad through AFS and the YES Program when I'm in the 11th or 12th grade. I had a few questions about the YES Program that I was hoping you could help me with. My email is I really enjoy reading your blog. Hope you have a great year! Thank youuu. :D

  5. hahhaha well mom were goıng to celebrate Ramazan so..hehe of course Bayram will come with that!!
    As far as the language goes- Gızem and Ezgi both speak very good english and they were there. As for my turkısh- ıts coming along. More and more each day. I can get my poınt across when speakıng and understand some, but ıts hard to stay that focused all the tıme. I guess I have been sleep talkıng ın Turkısh, so ıts comıng!

    I wıll emaıl you now:)

  6. Hi, my little scout ;) Your blog is really excellent..I like it =) Your subject selection is very good,especially about Atatürk..I think, unique experience to live the culture of the east..

    Best wishes..