In Kazakh tradition the girl's family does not usually meet the girl's boyfriend until he asks for her hand in marriage - as you can imagine this makes meeting the girl's family even more stressful. This happened several months ago and put into motion the plans for Assel's going away party. The first part of Assel's going away weekend consisted of the in-laws first visit. This is a big event. Here are some random things I learned over the weekend:
- There is an inordinate amount of work that takes place to get ready for the in-law visit
- It is important to make a good first impression (read this as it is important to get dressed up)
- I definitely prefer the children's table
- Public speaking (such as toast giving to strangers) still stresses me out and causes me to stumble over anything I have tried to memorize
- The brides mother and father need to be careful not to eat too much as they will have to sit on a carpet and be shaken around at one point during the festivities
- Kazakhstan has a lot of very pretty jewelry and the girls in my family now own some of this jewelry
- I am not a fan of living on the fourth story apartment
- I now know a store that is open at 6 am .. not thinking I will EVER use that again, but I guess it's a good thing to know
- The darkness of tea and the quantity of milk added is very important
- Never be without green tea after beshparmak
- It is possible to clog a drain twice in one weekend
- 25 people can fit in one living room for a meal
- Flour spread on the face is supposed to represent a bright future for the new married couple
- The liver represents something similar as the heart in the USA - our new relatives are now part of our liver and we ate liver together as a representation (this is not the best translation, but it is as close as I can get as we just don't talk about our liver in the same way in English)
Now for the detailed report:
Dasken's family is from up north, so they took the train from Astana to arrive in Taraz around 6pm on Saturday evening. Myself and some of the other relates went to the train station to pick up his family. Twelve people came to represent his side of the family at the festivities. After picking them up at the train station, we took them to their hotel to get cleaned up. Then, they came over for a traditional meal at my Kazakh family's apartment. We started preparing food and setting the table for this meal on Friday morning. I was at my Kazakh family's house until 10:30 pm on Friday evening and then we went over early to help with final preparations. Some of my extended family stayed with me at my apartment over the weekend.
There are a lot of traditions involved with the first official meal of the two families. The groom's family is expected to bring gifts to close family members. These gift included a large carpet, ring and earring sets, vests, jackets, beautiful material, and much more. I came to realize that there is a rule as to how every part of the evening is supposed to go - yet very few people actually understand the rules. We had to rely on the older relatives (whose daughters had already married) to guide us through the process.
They arrived around 8pm and we sat down to a meal. The older relatives from my side of the family and all of Dasken's relatives were seated in the living room. We had borrowed tables, chairs, dishes, etc from friends and relatives. The table was impressive. There really wasn't any room for anything else. The younger relatives, including Dasken sat in a separate room at another table that was prepared. Assel was not really supposed to be present during this time, so she spent some of it in a separate room waiting until the official meeting of the future bride (which came around 10pm).
My role was to help in the kitchen and make sure everything was ready to go when needed. This included getting tea ready, taking the food out to the tables, clearing dishes, washing dishes, and doing whatever else was needed by my Kazakh mom and dad. I enjoyed being able to help out. I did sit down and enjoy the tasty food as well.
The traditional meal for this time is beshparmak. It is served on a huge platter. Homemade noodles are made, cooked, and placed on the platter. Then a butter sauce with a little tomato and onion (all sautéed together) is ladled over the noodles. On top of this are large pieces of horse meat. There is a particular order in which you are supposed to put the horse meat on the platters. Thankfully, one of the aunts knows the right order and all we had to do was take the platters and make sure they were placed at the designated place on the table.
During and after the meal the family members toasted each other and the upcoming marriage. Afterwards, we cleaned up the table and Dasken's relatives went to another room to wait for the revealing of the bride. Assel was brought into the room and each family member placed money on a plate that was passed around. This was the point at which the official exchange began. At the end of the night, Assel no longer belonged to our family, she belonged to Dasken's family.
This was followed by the giving of gifts by his family to our family. One of the most important parts of this gift giving time is the time at which the future bride is given gold jewelry. As Assel's sister, I was even given a gift ... I received some beautiful earrings and a matching ring. I helped drive Dasken's relatives back to their hotel around 12pm. Then, I came back, helped clean a little, then took the people who were staying at my apartment home. We were in bed around 1am and were able to get a few hours sleep before the next day began at 5:45 am. The day was a busy, but fun day.
The rest of the weekend included breakfast the next morning at 10am, the going away party (which I will post about separately), a special meal for all the older relatives in the family hosted by the girl's extended family at a restaurant, breakfast before the train, and extended goodbyes at the train station. It was a crazy, busy week. I loved getting to spend the time with my Kazakh family and be a part of this special day.