Last week Muslims celebrated the holiday Orozo Ait, which follows Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. I remembered how a few years ago our friends invited us to celebrate with their family. We arrived in their village the eve of Ait and the family was busy getting things prepared: chopping vegetables and meat, cooking, preparing for guests. We didn’t know what to expect. We only knew that this was the holiday that breaks the fast so people will visit and eat together.
The next morning we started off the holiday by eating breakfast with our hosts and other guests. The spread included plov, candy, fruit, tea, sugar, jam, and boor sok (little fried pieces of bread, very similar to Navajo fry bread). After prayers were made we tried to engage in conversation with our broken Russian.
During the meal they told us that it is traditional to visit at least 7 houses. We could do that. “Why not add a couple more and do 9?” we confidently thought. Good thing we packed our buffet pants (no, not really). We visited the second house and greeted our hosts with the traditional greeting. They led us into a room and there before us was plov, candy, fruit, tea, sugar, jam, and boor sok. We love plov and boor sok so we were in heaven. We knew that to visit 9 houses we would need to pace ourselves. What we didn’t know was that after a plate is completely finished the hosts will fill the plate again.
As Americans we like to think that by eating all our food we show that we appreciate the food and are done. In Kyrgyzstan, leaving a plate empty means that a person is not done and can eat more. We’d finish a plate to show that we liked and enjoyed the food, but then they’d fill it again. You’re seeing a trend here.Close to full we left that house and moved on to another. We entered the third house, greeted our hosts, sat down, prayed, and ate. By the fifth house we were stuffed and could not eat anymore, but we would not stop short of our goal of 9. We felt like the easiest way to get from one house to the next would be to roll each other. By the end of the day we were full of plov and tea and decided that the holiday was a little like Halloween, because we went from house to house for food and candy, and a little like Thanksgiving because all we did was eat all day.