In American culture, we have certain cultural milestones along life's path that we see as highly significant. Birth, graduation from high school, first job, marriage, etc. - there are certain events or dates that we view as transitions from one phase of life to the next, and we celebrate them accordingly.
T people have these dates as well, of course, though they don't always correspond with the Western milestones due to differences in worldview and lifestyle. For example, one of the T milestones is a man's return from his mandatory service in the army, which we don't share as we don't have mandatory military service. One of the most important life transitions is when a child turns 3 years old, at which point he/she celebrates a "кылбык," pronounced "kylbyk."
It's particularly important for a male child, as T people don't cut a boy's hair until he turns 3, because he's vulnerable to spirits and they don't want them to know that he's a boy before that. As a result, a boy's third birthday is a big occasion, and there is a hair cutting ceremony where all the male guests help to cut his hair and wish him a long and happy life. Well, I give you that brief T culture lesson because it explains much of today's post - Matthew turned 3 on Thursday, so we had a кылбык for him. But more on that in a bit.
The Saturday before the festivities, we went for a walk down at the park, and thought we'd share some of the pictures from that trip first. The weather has turned really nice here, and we've been enjoying the time outside.
The park is a bit grim still, as the green really hasn't started to shoot up, but the boys had a great time playing on the monkey bars and spitting into the water from the bridge.
It was a day for treats, so we took the boys to the stolovaya for supper and ice cream afterwards. Don't worry, we didn't let Steven eat all this by himself!
So, the party! We had quite a few of our T friends come over for the celebration - even S came in from the village to celebrate the important occasion with us.
Normally, T people would rent out a restaurant or dance hall and have the celebration there, complete with MC, dancing, and lots of alcohol, but we didn't want to go that direction. We sort of made it a combination Western/T birthday party, although the ladies seemed to spend most of the time looking at our photo albums.
The kids, of course, had a fantastic time. There were new toys, balloons, and it took them about 5 minutes to turn the perfectly clean and organized kids' room into a disaster:
Of course, we did still have the Western-style cake with Happy Birthday song.
Matthew was very proud of his new T vest. What a self-satisfied grin!
Then we all paused for Matthew to receive his well-wishes and have his hair cut by the men.
You can see this much better illustrated in the video below, in which my friend A gives Matthew a blessing (I can't really give you a translation beyond the fact that he wishes him wisdom and wealth at some point) and then cuts a small snippet of hair. The hair is supposed to be saved; it is a symbol of the "wealth" of the child - the guarantee, as it were, of the blessings that were pronounced upon him on this day.
Bobbie thought up a genius family tradition way back on Steven's first or second birthday - to blow up enough balloons to cover the floor and hide the presents among them. That way the birthday boy gets to play in the balloons while he looks for his presents underneath them. We didn't have enough balloons to really do it well, but we did our best.
Of course, after that the party was mostly about playing with the new toys (and the calzones and taco salad!).
It was a really good time. Matthew was even given a goat (a traditional gift at the кылбык is lifestock - it's when the child starts his herd, which he will increase over his lifetime)! So, by T standards, Matthew is now the richest member of the family, being the only one with his own herd of animals. We'll have to go visit it sometime and take pictures for you (it stays out in the village with the person who gave it to us).