The most solemn, expressive and rich rite
is Karaim wedding. It consist of several parts (as in many other nations
- siozgia kojmach (couple's agreement);
- kyz bijanči (hen's party);
- kieliašmiak (engagement);
- toj alhyšy (marriage);
- toj ičkisi (wedding party);
- ullu toj šabbaty (great wedding Saturday
a week after the wedding).
the engagement ceremony the youth is electing the leader of all
the wedding and handing him over a thin withy
red-banded stick 'chybukh', which is for symbol of leader's power
The main wedding ceremony that remains up
to these days, is the engagement. There are lots of rite symbols in it;
in the presence of community elders' engagements document - toj jazyšy
is signed and it becomes a legal one. The mood of this ceremony is very
solemn and sensitive.
The most interesting wedding custom is - kioliundiurmiak (symbolic
maiden's hairstyle changing into a womanlike one, head covering). At that
time a well-voiced boy sings a song "Muzhul kielin" ("Sad bride").
That is the bride's wedding lamentation. As the bride according to the
traditions can do nothing in the wedding, it is lamented for her and during
the song the bridesmaids moisten the bride's hair with a ring wetted in
The lamentation text is usually adapted
for each bride separately. In the text it is retold a symbolic dialogue
between the bride and her relatives. The dialogue is very expressive having
solemn metaphors with religious allusions. "Muzhul kielin" is sung
as usual with accompaniment of violin and trumpet. After the rite is over,
the bride and the groom must be dressed.
For the engagement the parties from the bride and groom's side each make
a cake (called kielinlik and kijovliuk) eaten at the ceremony.
Karaim youth usually dressed with national costumes has to act much at
the engagement. It is their obligation to assist the bride and the groom,
to take part at all the ritual actions, to make jokes, and also to sign
as witness the engagement document.
From marriage ceremony - the priest reads aloud
the engagement agreement "toj jazyshy", 1996
From marriage ceremony - the priest is putting on
the wedding-rings, Vilnius kenesa, 1996
Another important wedding moment is the religious
marriage ceremony in Karaim temple - kenesa. The kenesa wedding ceremony
also has certain rules. After the newly-weds come to kenesa, solemn hymn
"Kiorkiu kijovliarnin" ("The newly-weds' beauty") is sung. During
the marriage rite the engagement agreement is being read aloud, after
joining the bride and the groom the priest blesses them and the community.
In the wedding party there remained very little rite actions - the most
important of them is the song of the wedding leader ataman, called "Onarhejlar"
("Let they prosper").
The Karaims' wedding ceremonies have been
observed up to the present. As the wedding is rather rare, it becomes
a huge festival for the whole community. That is a nice opportunity both
to congratulate the newly-weds and to meet one another, communicate and
maybe to make plans for the next weddings.