27 February 2006


It's been interesting to ask people about Kyrgyz funeral traditions over the last week after we attended a funeral. Most of the people we've asked have been under 35; nearly all of those were critical of some aspect of their traditions.

The biggest concern was the money spent and the obligations of various family members. Many customs in Kyrgyzstan are based on nomadic traditions. It's almost impossible to visit a Kyrgyz family, no matter how poor, without them offering you something to eat. If they've invited you over, you can expect a lot of food and to be sent home with leftovers. A logical tradition if you've traveled for miles to see someone and will have a long journey home.

But funerals can get a bit over the top. We've been told that depending on your family relationship, a gift of between $25-$75 is appropriate. That's at least month's salary for many families. I'd worry a bit if I were required to give thousands of dollars every time a close relative died.

Interestingly, many of the people who thought that the funeral traditions were too expensive and unnecessary thought that the wedding traditions, which are at least as extravagant, were fine. People in the US might spend $20,000 on a wedding or a funeral, but taking the awful Kyrgyzstan economy into consideration, the $5,000 that might be spent in Kyrgyzstan is even more difficult to come up with.

Personally, I thought the Kyrgyz funeral we attended was beautiful, and my husband enjoyed the wedding he went to. But both could still be meaningful events without the expense.

1 comment:

  1. Traditions are sticky wickets at times. Thor's mother has informed me that, even though *he* decided to be cremated, upon his death if she is still around, she will take me or the kids to court before she allows it.

    Of course I have decided that it would be really cool if they ( the dearly remaining) could ship me over to a tropical tribe where the most handsome young man in the village would set my body on a raft covered with exotic flowers and shove me out to sea at dusk. As the raft hits just beyond the breakers he would then stand tall and shoot a flaming arrow onto the raft, sending me into eternity with a burst of firey glory... one can dream, right?