Sünnet Düğünü…What is that?

“Sünnet” is the word for “circumcision.” “Düğün” is the word for “wedding.”

Turkey circumcision party sunnet

Nice invitations- King for a day!

So, it is a “circumcision wedding.”

OK, great, I got the meaning, but, come on. Circumcision Party? Really?

When I say “circumcision” the first word that comes to mind is “party?” I don’t think so. However, “Sünnet Düğünü” is actually very appropriately named. Allow me to explain.
Here in Cappadocia (and all over Turkey) circumcision is a rite of passage for boys, and an opportunity for community celebration. According to their Islamic faith, all Turkish boys must be circumcised. It is not that they have entered manhood at this point, but that they are now identified with all other Turkish men as having undergone this initiation.

This is worthy of a celebration. And oh how we celebrated! Family, friends, and neighbors gathered around this boy and partied late into the night! Complete with dancing, singing, eating, and gift-giving, this tradition had the look and feel of a wedding reception*. (See, I told you it was appropriately named!)

There are many different ways this tradition is observed. The party in which we were privileged to participate was the deluxe model.

As you can see from the video we were in a very fancy reception hall in a cave with approximately two hundred guests. There were snacks and drinks as well as a full meal of chicken and rice, salad, watermelon, and dessert. Entertainment was provided by hired musicians and folk dancers.

Other circumcision celebrations take place in outdoor garden settings without a meal and music is provided by a DJ. Still others commence this rite at their home, barricading the roads as they take their dancing to the streets and sit at tables full of food provided by neighbors and friends.

“According to their Islamic faith, all Turkish boys must be circumcised. It is not that they have entered manhood at this point, but that they are now identified with all other Turkish men as having undergone this initiation. This is worthy of a celebration.”

We learned something very interesting in regards to the cost of the party (between two and three thousand dollars according to one guest). In order to help defer the cost of the festivities, there is a person called the “kirve”. He helped finance the party by renting the hall, paying for the entertainment, or covering the cost of food. He is similar to a God-parent helping the boy throughout his life giving moral support and attending important events like graduations, going off to military service, and weddings. The kirve will also be with the boy at his actual circumcision, holding the boy and telling him everything is going to be alright.

Another fascinating part of the celebration was the “takmak töreni,” or “pinning ceremony.” If you’ve ever been to a wedding where they had a “money dance” this would be similar. The boy and his family stood in the middle of the room and welcomed guests one-by-one to pin money or gold pieces on a bright red sash around the guest-of-honor’s neck! Usually, they pin larger amounts of money, 100 or 50 TL notes. Smaller amounts, 20, 15, or 10 TL were given in an envelope and handed to the parents as you passed by. The family made 8500TL (over $4700!) for their son’s future. They said it would mostly go for university but could be used for other things as well.

Circumcision boy avanosAs foreigners in a strange land it’s great to be able to be invited into these festivities and to be a part of local life and culture. If you have the privilege of attending one of these events during your visit to Turkey, do not miss it.

*[My apologies to our readers from other countries where the wedding reception doesn’t look anything like this!]

What is one of your favorite cultural experiences from your journey to Cappadocia (or anywhere in Turkey)?

–By Christian Dedrick


Did you enjoy this post? If so, here’s what you can do. Please share this post with your friends by clicking on one of the buttons below or to the side. Also, you may want to subscribe to these posts. Click here and follow the instructions. One of our goals is to help people who will visit Cappadocia. This is your way to help us meet this goal. Thank you, we are grateful.