Thursday, 29 July 2010

Sünnet (circumcision)

It's that time of the year.  The long summer holiday from school is the ideal time for young boys to be circumcised.  There have been three Sünnet celebrations in the village this week.  Drums beating, flutes playing, processions of cars sounding their horns, and generally a good time had by all...except perhaps the boy who is undergoing the Sünnet!

This extract from MyMerhaba (a forum for foreigners living in Turkey) explains the Sünnet:

"Circumcision is performed on about 1/7th of the world's male population. Circumcision is performed in Turkey for religious reasons. The advantages and disadvantages of circumcision have been debated for centuries. The main points of conflict revolve around whether or not to operate and the appropriate age for circumcision. Turks defer male circumcision until the age of six or seven, thus turning it from a birth ritual into a coming-of-age ordeal. As a tradition circumcision takes place during odd-numbered ages. On the day of the event, the boys dress in white and red ribbons and ride flower-bedecked donkeys or cars to the ceremony.

When the circumcision is completed, the young boy's "status" changes drastically: ribbons removed, they hold escort like kings on lavishly decorated beds, receiving compliments and gifts. Celebration of ritual circumcision is usually held after schools go on vacation or in the fall, close to the opening of schools. A boy who will be circumcised is called Sünnet Çocuğu (Child of Circumcision).

NOTE: It is appropriate to give a Cumhuriyet Altını (gold coin) or a watch as a gift to the boy in accordance to your relationship with him or his parents.

Tradition on Ritual Circumcision

Preparations for circumcision start early. An elaborate circumcision outfit and clothes for relatives of the child are bought by his father. A few days before the circumcision ceremony, he visits his relatives and neighbors in his circumcision outfit and kisses their hands. Every person whose hand is kissed customarily gives money to the boy. The circumcision hat is blue to protect him from evil eyes. In front of the hat a ribbon with the inscription Maşallah (Wonderful, May God avert the evil eye) is placed.

On the day of circumcision, guests come together and chant Mevlit and eat a meal while waiting for the arrival of the circumcised boy.

In villages in Anatolia, the young boy, before being circumcised, travels on horse back or by a procession consisting of cars, in and around the village. The boy is brought into the circumcision hall just before noon and does not dismount from his horse or get out from car until he receives money from his father. His father gives him a present and then circumcision ceremony starts.

During the circumcision ceremony the boy will have beside him a Kirve which is equivalent of a "Godfather" in Christianity. It is common to hear Oldu da bitti Maşallah (Well, it is all over and done) or Allahüekber (God is the greatest)

The boy who has just been circumcised wears a long and loose dress and is gently placed upon a very ornamented bed prepared in one corner of the home, to rest and recover. After having lunch, women and men customarily give presents to the child and stand beside his bed saying “everything remained in the past, you will gain your health soon”. Afterwards, the entertainment begins and continues often until late in the evening"


  1. I take it they don't do anything about the pain while it is being done?
    My heart goes out to these young boys.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  2. Oh I think they probably use a local anaesthetic these days Maggie..although I'm not 100% sure. The boys don't seem to be bothered by the whole thing. I think the celebrations and presents make them forget the pain!

  3. A friend of mine climbed a tree and wouldn't come down until several of relatives told him lies and promised him things (a pony!!!) and tricked him to coming back to the "party."
    Even being a non-judgmental as possible, I am sure it must be very traumatic to some boys.

  4. Nomad: Oh I'm sure it must be. My husband tells me that he and his cousin had their Sünnet at the same was delayed by 2 hours because they ran away and hid...and had all the relations out searching for them!

  5. What a thing to do to a child!
    Makes you wonder about the origins, though, not only of circumcision as such, but all sorts of primitive 'rites of passage' that survive in modern society.

  6. There was a time when that was necessary, but those times are long gone. If it had to be done I feel it is better to be done as early as possible...

  7. Fly: Yes I'm fascinated by the fact that these rituals have survived for generations.

    Gaelikaa: I agree..if it has to be done, for whatever reason, best done when the boy is a baby.


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