Circumcision in Turkish culture
Attending a Turkish circumcision party is an eye-opener for anyone with the stiff British attitude that private parts should not be discussed in public, nor should we celebrate the ritual trimming of them through song and dance.
In the UK, when a boy is born, doctors discreetly perform the deed and return the baby to his parents without a big fuss. Hygiene is the principal reason and I assume the baby boys have no memories of a doctor bearing down on their man parts with surgical scissors.
In Turkey, the deed is done at any time during a boy’s life and it is not a private occasion either. Family, friends, neighbours, long lost uncles, and random strangers suddenly appear to celebrate until early morning. Known as a sünnet party, the word ‘privacy’ is not used when describing the process to foreigners.
When I received my first invite to a Turkish circumcision party, I was not sure what the appropriate social response should be. The boys getting the snip, were my three Turkish nephews through marriage and they were aged eight, four and seven months.
What should I have said?
The first response that sprang to mind was …
“Of course, I would love to join a party to show my overall enjoyment at your impending doom and alteration to your manhood”
The rest of the family were laughing, joking, and looking forward to the event so it was obvious, I needed help with social etiquette for a circumcision party. I carried on smiling politely, while making a mental note to speak to my Turkish husband later.
To my relief, he told me that times had changed and my three nephews would not be lying down on the kitchen table to have their courage tested to the limit. In the past, that was normal but the three boys were going to hospital weeks before the party and the procedure would be performed by someone who at least had a degree and expert knowledge of the male anatomy.
To my surprise, my husband proudly recalled his memories of being circumcised. His uncle performed the procedure at home and he remembers receiving a big watch as a present.
I realized then, that it was about much more than a need for hygiene.
The First Step From a Boy To a Man
Most males in Turkey are circumcised. It is the first step on the ritual path to becoming a man. A circumcision and completion of military service are two major events throughout a boy’s life.
Many males in our neighborhood have completed their military service.
They leave with the mannerisms of a child, then return months later with the physical appearance and mental attitude of a man.
The emphasis in Turkish culture about boys growing up to be strong men is the hope and belief, that they will be a good husband, son and father, one who will protect, honor and love his family at all costs, while ensuring they want for nothing.