Tajik womanTajikistan is a Central Asian country and thus, many local wedding traditions are common for the whole region. But, of course, there are also unique, typically Tajik wedding customs and rituals. In this post, we’ll talk about both. Among other things, we’ll find out what a kalym is, how old Tajik brides usually are, and why Tajik craftswomen intentionally make flaws in the needlework decorating the bridal veil.

Cradle matchmaking and arranged marriages

Tajik young men and women traditionally were long engaged by the time they were old enough to get wed. Their parents or hired matchmakers found a husband or wife for them. And often, the ritual of engagement was held when a person was still a child or even a baby – so-called “cradle matchmaking”. Today, some people still follow this tradition but it’s rare, most young men and women are free to find their loved one and marry whoever they want, provided their parents approve of their choice.

Early marriages

Tajik people get married young, especially girls. After the age of 23, a maiden is considered too old to be wed. She can count only on the fate of being a second wife. In Tajikistan, polygyny is sometimes practiced, by the way, as well as marriages between relatives (for example, second cousins and third cousins). In the past, it was rather common.

Kalym for the bride’s father

Every wedding is held only after the bride’s father gets his kalym – dowry the groom and his family pay for the girl. Traditionally in many Central Asian countries, the kalym was counted in sheep. Before the wedding day, the bride’s father visited the groom’s family. They ate, prayed for their children’s happiness in marriage, and established the “price” for the bride.

Tajik bridal veil

A Tajik bride had to wear a specific veil on her wedding day. It was called a “suzane” and had to be made from white homespun cotton. It could be pure white or adorned with protective embroidery. This veil was prepared in advance and, often, relatives and neighbors helped to make a suzane and other pieces of wedding attire to finish the work in time. For Tajik people, the community is important, they often help each other out and visit their neighbors to just drink tea and talk.

There was also a tradition to make a slight flaw in the needlework on the bridal veil – a few extra stitches in the wrong place or the wrong color of one element, etc. This was done on purpose. It was believed that a bad eye would get distracted by the flaw and the bride would be safe from the evil eye.

Jumping over fire and walking on blood

On the wedding day, the celebrating started in both houses separately. The groom’s relatives gathered at his parents’ place and the bride’s at her parents’. Closer to the evening, the groom and his wedding procession went to the bride’s house to get her. People lit the way with torches. The groom had to jump over burning flax straws before entering the bride’s house – this was a purification ritual. Then, he entered the house but didn’t yet see his bride – she was standing behind a special curtain. The groom told her parents that he was here to take her home and left. The bride said her official farewell to her mother, father, and other relatives and followed the groom with her own procession. She also had to jump over a fire before entering the house. And another ritual was held by her new father-in-law. He sacrificed a goatling at her feet and she had to walk on freshly spilled blood on her way to the threshold.

Although in different regions and families, the wedding day traditions might be different. For example, the bride and groom are supposed to leave for his house after the wedding reception on a single horse.

Post-wedding meetings

After the wedding, the traditional visits inside the family continued. On the 3rd day, the husband visited his wife’s parents. It was called “domod salom” or “son-inlaw's bow”. In 15 days after the wedding, the wife met her family, which was called the ritual of “looking at the bride's face”. In 20 days after the wedding, the newlyweds visited the wife’s parents together.

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