The Holidays in Kyrgyzstan

It’s Christmas in Kyrgyzstan!  At least, it was a couple of days ago.  The Kyrgyz, being mostly Muslim, don’t celebrate Christmas, but their  version of New Year’s – or Jange Jil – is pretty darn close to it.  It’s basically a fusion of American style Christmas and New Year’s.  There are Jange Jil trees and lights and even American Christmas music.  This morning “Jingle Bell Rock” was playing on the background on the news.

Conveniently, Jange Jil is on the 1st and December 25th was just another day.  That being the case, I didn’t feel too guilty about taking off for Bishkek for the weekend to catch the Peace Corps Christmas dinner and a chance to see some of the Volunteers outside of Talas.

This time of year, the Ötmök Pass can be hit or miss .  The snow way up there (around 11,000 ft) can block the road and when that happens the only route back to Bishkek is the long way round across the Kazakh Steppe.  I got lucky this time though; the pass was open.  But, boy was there a lot of snow up there.  Other than the road cutting through, the thick layer of it was totally unbroken.  No one is exactly tromping around so the snow is one solid, billowing mass softening every crevasse and crag in the topography.  If the mountains had looked like wet, crumpled sheets before, now they’re more like a white, freshly laundered sheet being tossed across a bed.  You know, that second when the air catches it right before settling into place?  Yeah, like that.

I made it to Bishkek late on Christmas Eve and had dinner with the Chui Oblast Volunteers and the few others, who like me, made it in from the other Oblasts.

On Christmas Day we had a pretty fancy lunch complete with turkey, cranberries, and stuffing.  There were maybe twenty Volunteers, most of the Peace Corps office staff, and the Ambassador even made an appearance.  It really felt pretty Christmas-y.  Afterwards, I headed back to the apartment we rented for the weekend for the obligatory post holiday meal nap/coma.

After a few hours of being lazy, it was finally late enough to call home without waking anyone up. (Now, with daylight savings, I’m thirteen hours ahead of Mountain Time.)  This was my first Christmas away from home which was tough, but it was nice to know everyone else was together.  Just the little bit of time we spent talking made me feel like I really wasn’t that far away.

Now I’m back in Kara Suu and Jange Jil – or as I’m thinking of it: Christmas round 2 – is just a couple of days away.  I’m pretty excited for what sounds like will be quite a party.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Featured Image from Juliann Berrios 


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About Cole Bedford