Azeri traditions and cultures
Shahsavan’s men’s clothing is similar to men’s in rural and urban areas although due to job requirements, lifestyle and habits and tastes, their clothing is not equal to urban men in terms of color and luster, but in summer or winter used clothing composition or a variety of hats and shoes are the same by slight small difference in the type of their material. Shahsavan men wear a jacket (Penjay or Setra) which is usual.
However, Shahsavan’s women somewhat have kept the traditional context of their clothes and even in some cases did not enter any new pattern or composition into their traditional dress. Shahsavan’s women’s clothing has 10 pieces including Tuman (several wide full-length underskirts gathered at waist), Koynak (a full length tunic), Kalayagi and Yaylig (two headscarves), Allynnig (a small Kalayagi worn as a headband to keep the headcarves tight), Araxchin (a small skullcap), Doshtig (a sleeveless jacket), Yal (women’s jacket), Socks, Bashmaq (shoes).
The bell-shape appearance of the women’s dress is achieved by wearing at least two or more full-length underskirts, while on special occasions up to five skirts may be worn. The waistcoats worn by younger girls tend to be made out of red material decorated with braids, buttons, and coins. The waistcoats of married women are normally more somber and are often made out of men’s suiting. The headdress is one of the most important elements of the dress worn by a married woman. Its shape, size, color, and complexity are used to denote wearer’s status. The basic headdress is created with two scarves, both of which are made of hand-printed silk. The large scarf (Yaylig) is about five feet square and decorated in a variety of colors. The most common combination for the (Yaylig) is white, yellow and oranges patterned with darker colors. The smaller scarf (Kalayagi) is smaller and is normally the darker of two. It is rolled diagonally and tied tightly around the large scarf and the skullcap in order to keep them in place. As a rule, Shahsavan women will partially veil their faces in the presence of unrelated men. This is done by bringing part of the Yaylig across the lower part of the face covering the nose, mouth, and chin.
Showoon women are respected in their community as being equal with showoon men. Husbands and wives are very affectionate and do many of their tasks together like going to the farm and barn, working on the field and visiting relatives. In this way, they help each other to develop a strong community life.
Azeri people start holiday 4 Wednesdays before 21st of March which is the symbol of winter’s end and the coming of the New year. They are called Water Wednesday, Fire Wednesday, Earth Wednesday, Wind or Last Wednesday. Nowruz holiday consists of ceremonies and traditions. People start to clean house, paint eggs, sprout up Sabza, make national pastries and a great variety of national cuisine. One of the main attributes of Nowruz is egg. Many nations considered that egg is symbol of life. Each egg color has its own meaning. Egg painted Red color – summer, Green Color – Spring, Yellow Color- autumn, Non-color egg means winter.
Bonfire on Nowruz Holiday
Symbolic characters of Nowruz are manifested by Kechel, Kosa and Bahar gizi (Spring girl). Their meanings are: The period prior to Nowruz is embodied by Kechel as well as to indicate the renewal of nature, the fertility symbol is Kosa, while landscaping of nature is represented by Bahar gizi.
At night, everyone should jump over bonfire for 7 times while telling special. After holiday people visit adults and elder people to congratulate their holiday and give some holiday gifts. And people who quarreled got reconciled on that day.
Hat throwing or Gurshaqatdi
Another tradition is “papagatdi or Gurshagatdi”. children knock on the neighbors’ or relatives’ doors and leave behind the door their hats, scarves or a little basket and they hide. And secretly wait for candies, pastry and nuts. People never give it back empty.
A Khoncha setting.
Khoncha is the traditional display of Nowruz. It consists of a big silver or copper tray, with a tray of green, sprouting wheat (samani or Sabza) in the middle. Sabza is one of symbols of Nowruz. It must be sprout up in every home on Nowruz. The first sneak of the spring shows a revival of nature. If it is going green, it means this year will be fertile and a dyed egg for each member of the family arranged around it.
Traditional Nowruz beliefs
There are several beliefs for young girls about telling fortune in Nowruz.
People overhear conversation behind the doors of their neighbors in the afternoon. Then girls try to tell stories about their fortune and make guesses based on the first heard word if their wishes come true. That is why everybody tries to speak pleasantly on that day. For example, if somebody says “turn on light”, it means everything will be good. On contrary, if expressions like “turn off”, “damn it” etc. are overheard it clues about negative consequences.
People eat smoky fish and rice on the last Wednesday of year for good luck in new year.
Visiting family and friends
During the Nowruz holidays, people are expected to make short visits to the homes of visit family, friends and neighbors. Typically, the young people will visit their elders first, and the elders return their visit later. Visitors are offered tea and pastries, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and mixed nuts or other snacks. Many Iranians throw large Nowruz parties in as a way of dealing with the long distances between groups of friends and family.
In Iran, the Nowruz holidays last thirteen days. On the thirteenth day of the New Year which is known as Nature day, Iranians leave their houses to enjoy nature and picnic outdoors, as part of the Sizdah bedar ceremony. The Sabza grown for the Khoncha setting is thrown away, particularly into a running water such as stream or river. It is also customary for young single people, especially young girls, to tie the leaves of the Sabza before discarding it, expressing a wish to find a partner.
Girl liking or seeing
If boy and girl liked each other, first of all, they must ask the opinion of parents. According to traditions, the boy’s mother and one of the close relatives visit girl’s home to discuss with her parents the relationship between their children. Then fathers of both side meet. Usually, girl’s father doesn’t agree for the first time and says the following: “Qız qapısı, şah qapısı” (meaning is “Maiden’s door is the door of the king, that is why you must come several times for my agreement”) “I will say final decision after I discuss it with my daughter and wife’’. When father asks his daughter about this relationship, the daughter must keep silence. Silence means agreement. This is because the main decision belongs to adults and elders.
Boy’s Father invites close relatives such as uncles and aunts to the home. After consulting they decide to go to the girl’s home for match-making. Then, they tell girl’s mother that they plan to go to their house for match-making on a certain day. On that day, everyone has candy after the final agreement between two families.
After agreement, Boy’s family brings engagement ring, one shawl and lots of candies to the girl. The close relative of boy fixes a ring on her finger and puts shawl in girl’s shoulder.
Boy’s family must bring gifts in all holidays until the wedding ceremony, Nowruz Holiday gift is more interesting than the other ones. Holiday gift should be brought on last Tuesday of Nowruz. The red dress, or shawl, and jewelry, horned rams with henna and red band on head are brought for bride. They also bring a pie, , nuts – hazelnuts, date filled trays decorated with candles and Sabza.
Girl’s mother prepares dowry for her daughter for several years. Several days before wedding ceremony, they bring dowry of the bride to boy’s home. Dowry is consisting of at least bedroom furniture, home accessories and personal belongings of girl. Some of the relatives of girl comes to decorate girl’s room. Mother-in-law of girl gives the gift to her for decorating the room.
Kabin (Religious marriage registering)
Religious marriage registering takes place a few days before the wedding ceremony. One person as witness from both sides must present on this registering. Usually it is registered by Mullah. People were giving money and one sugar loaf which was 8 kg in weight.
Xinayaxdi (Xinna Night)
Girls gather in one of the rooms. One of bride relatives takes Xinna and starts dancing in the middle of the room. Then she brings a tray and an empty box and puts them in front of the one of groom relatives. This relative put money into the empty box and takes the Xinna. She comes to the bride with dancing then the bride’s fingers and feet are smeared in Xinna. Then Xinna is brought in front of everybody. Everybody smears Xinna and gives Anaam. Then the jewelry that the groom’s relatives brought was presented to everybody.
Meanwhile, a girl from bride side brings a “2 color” tea to the groom and his friends. They also drink tea and put a Anaam (according to Azeri traditions, Anaam is money or little gift which is collected in wedding, or engagement ceremony) on an empty tray. One of the girls brings the Xinna and the boys are sliding their little finger into the Xinna.
This bath is a dream that many parents have for their sons. The host of this bath is the groom. He invites young family members of the bride and his family to the public bathroom in their city to take a bath together before the wedding. The clothes bundle that groom is supposed to wear in this bathroom are wrapped up by the bride’s family is given to groom. There is underwear, shirts, pants, socks, handkerchiefs and so on in this bundle with some sweets, fruits and cool juice, is taken to the bathroom so that the groom celebrates his last single bath with several friends. After the hand and foot are buried in Xina, the groom wears his groom’s clothes and goes to his father’s house with his friends who took him to the bathroom and takes a small ceremony there.
The groom, his friends and relatives come to the bride’s house for carrying bride to wedding place, in a fancy and luxurious car decorated with bands and flowers. They carry a mirror and candles that are believed to represent happiness. Before Bride leaves the father’s house, red ribbon is closed to waist by the groom’s father or brother. Then bride goes around the Holy Quran and candle three times. Bride’s parents wish to couple all the best. At this moment a little boy of bride home runs and closes the door. It is said “Qapikastdi”. Groom gives him a Anaam and they open the door. Bride leave the house by music.
Beliefs after wedding
When the bride arrives at the groom’s house, Plate is put under her feet for breaking. This is a sign of becoming the housewife. Also the groom is supposed to gently throw tree apples toward the bride The rest begin to clap, this is actually a welcome to the bride. The groom throws three apples toward the bride of course, the groom must be careful that his marking is correct and does not hurt the bride. She sits on chair and a boy child is given to her arms so that she has a baby boy soon.
Qiz dalijad gedmak
Giving regards to Mother in law
The groom goes to his wife’s house the next morning with a bouquet of flowers and gifts, and thanks his mother in law for the girl she gave birth to, and now she is his bride. Azeri people at this ceremony usually give a groom a small gift.
After the wedding, the bride and groom do not usually eat their own home for a few weeks because they are invited by their relatives. In this celeberation, called the Ayagh Ashtdi, the bride and groom go to each other’s relative’s house to get to know them more. At this ceremony, the host gives a gift to the bride to show that they will be so happy to see them again in their house. The Ayagh Ashtdi is usually done first by parents and then the family starts to invite and perform the celebration one after the other.
When a person dies, he is laid to the south toward Mecca(Qibla), his body is covered with black cloth which is the symbol of mourning. Of course, it is prayed a lot for the dead person. If the person could not be buried because of dying at the end of the day, the lamp is lit next to him. The relatives of the deceased (not only women) will be with him all night long.
Generally, once the person dies, everyone: relatives, friends, neighbors swarm to his home. The dead-body needs to be washed and if there is a mosque nearby, the dead-body is washed there. Washing exactly in mosque is not so important. Then the corpse is worn a white garment which is longer in case of women body. They wrap the lower part of the garment with white cloth and then they cover all of this with white shroud. Muslims do not use coffin. They carry the corpse in a stretcher or in an open box made of wood. Usually sons or brothers of the deceased carry him on their shoulders or other close relatives in case of absence of them. Women are never involved in the funerals. They can visit the grave only after burying. The Mullah reads prayers to God all the way to the cemetery and asks for the forgiveness of the deceased’s soul. If the age of deceased is less than six, prayer is not performed. It is believed that, child is innocent and his place is already Paradise, thus there is no reason to pray for salvation of the child’s soul. When the grave is being covered with soil, the deceased’s son or brother should stand in direction of grave so that the deceased is not feeling loneliness. Anyone who touches the corpse should be absolutely ablution after funerals. The music is turned off in cars, even in buses when they pass near the cemetery. Mourning continues after coming back from funerals. On the burial day only tea and Halvah are given to people. Halvah is made of flour, oil and sugar. Halvah can also be cooked for some holidays. Nobody is invited to funeral, they join themselves. Funeral is also hold on 3th and 7th day of deceased. Mullah take parts in all funerals and led to funeral prayers. Not only Halvah is given to people on funerals but also plo and meat dishes. On that day a special cleaning ritual is hold: blanket and mattress of deceased is cleaned. Everyone can go to home of deceased for condolences until 40th day on every Thursday or Friday and they can drink a cup of tea with halvah. Until 40th day relatives of deceased are considering mourning days. No one wears jewelry; however, they wear black dress. Men are not shaving. Relatives are not going to any festivals of parties during those 40 days. Neighbors also turn off the loud music. Even the corpse’s relative who are engaged must wait one year for their wedding.
Serving tea to guests is one of the ancient traditions in Azeri culture. Azeri people usually prefer to dunk a piece of sugar into the tea, then bite a piece and sip their tea instead of adding sugar into it. Serving tea just before the main meal with raisin is considered to be a symbol of hospitality. They served hot tea in cups or Armudi Glass (pear-shaped glass). Armudi Glass is a symbol of tea ceremony. The main point in tea preparation process is water boiling technique. The smell and taste of fresh samovar tea (Samovar is a metal container for water boiling purpose) is unique and cannot be compared with other tea smells. An Azeri family of four members uses approximately 500gr of tea monthly and about 6-8kg yearly.
Tea is served in any ceremony in Azeri culture regardless whether it is funeral or wedding.