Turkey is one of my favorite countries that I have traveled to. I enjoyed Turkey so much that my “two week” visit there stretched to almost two months! Turkey is so diverse! I saw so many unbelievable sights and had such spectacular experiences that I could write a book about Turkey itself (but I won’t for now!). When you think about Turkey, you may think of the incredible mosques in Istanbul, the historical ruins of Ephesus, the beautiful beaches of Bodrum, or the magical fairy chimneys in Cappadocia (all of which I will write about in another blog post). However, one of my most memorable experiences was attending a circumcision ceremony.
I was at the right place and at the right time, passing by a small town near the exquisite coastal town of Dikili (near Izmir) when I noticed a huge gathering of people. I asked my Turkish friend what was happening. He told me it was a circumcision ceremony when a “young boy becomes a man,” and asked if I’d like to attend it. Apparently, everyone was welcomed. Certainly one of the reasons why I enjoyed Turkey was because people are so genuinely friendly. I truly felt accepted and welcomed (even if I thought I was dressed completely inappropriately!). Although I couldn’t speak Turkish, I could see the sincerity in their eyes, and feel the warmth of their smiles, as they communicated their excitement to me as we shared in their special celebration.
The circumcision, or sünnet in Turkish, is one of the most significant traditions in Turkey. It is the strictest and most common religious and ritualistic practice related to children. It is the rite of passage from boyhood to manhood. It is a time of exuberance and joy. An elaborate circumcision ceremony affirms and increases the respectability of the boy and his family. Everyone is invited to the ceremony. I do mean everyone: the entire town, all family and friends, and even me, a random stranger passing by.
The most important part of the ceremony is the preparation of the circumcision attire for the honored boy. The word Maşallah is embroidered on the front, which is an Arabic phrase that expresses appreciation and joy for an event or person. The announcement of the circumcision is commonly carried out by the boy being paraded around town with his friends on horseback, on a cart, or by car a few days before, or on the day of the ceremony.
I won’t go into the actual surgical procedure of the circumcision as I am a bit squeamish. I will leave that to your imagination. However, I was so fortunate and grateful to experience Turkish culture firsthand by being a part of one of the most beloved traditions near and dear to the hearts of all Turks.
I always love learning about the culture and getting to know the people of the places I visit. Turks are very family oriented. I felt blessed to be included in a ceremony that expressed the love and admiration parents have for their children—where friends and the entire community come together to celebrate and honor children and their families. One common thread I have seen in all the countries I have traveled to is how parents love their children, and how all cultures have their own unique traditions that are special to them. This world is a better place if we respect our differences and embrace our similarities. The world could use more tolerance and understanding.
Love & Light,
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