The star of the celebrations Mercan.
In Turkish culture when a child develops its first tooth this is a time for celebration for the baby and mother, and should be shared with family and friends. Wheat and a traditional wheat dish called Hedikrefers are an important part of these celebrations and ceremony.
In the 'Tooth Wheat' ceremony there are a number of traditional practices that take place. Usually the ceremony is conducted by the oldest or most popular guest and the baby is presented to the gathering dressed in their finest and maybe covered by a piece of cloth, scarf or veil.
The honourable guest reads a verse basically saying that 'the baby shall have teeth like wheat', whilst they are holding a piece of wheat in their hand, one the verse is complete they throw the piece of wheat onto the baby.
Mum, Canan, performed the ceremony, here she can be seen throwing the wheat over Mercan.
This act of throwing wheat it is suggested comes from the old Turkish religion of Shamanism. Every tribe had its own sacred objects to give as sacrifices to their God, for example milk, butter and kımız (horse milk) were sacred to the Nomadic Tribes. Where as wheat, grain and corn were considered sacred among the Farmer Tribes. Also grains such as wheat and rice are thrown over newlyweds in the hopes that the couple will be prosperous (which still happens today in many countries).
Occasionally a small piece of wheat may be place in the baby's mouth. Turkish women believe that placing the wheat on the baby's gums will make it feel better and sooth the pain of teething. But as you can see below Mercan was already deciding if he liked the taste of this 'stuff' that Mum was tipping over him.
Next seven pieces of wheat are placed to the left of the baby's head, arranged like a necklace. The wheat from the necklace is kept till it dries out then is feed to the birds. A Turkish belief is that by doing this the baby will go on to love nature. Mercan's Mum had decided to make a necklace of the pieces of wheat but no sooner had she placed it over Mercans head, he started chomping into that too, so how much the birds ended up with who knows.
The next part of the ceremony predicts what the baby will go on to practice in later life. The baby is is placed on the floor or a table and a selection of objects are placed in front of them, these mainly consist of scissors, ruler, mirror, bread and a holy book. If the baby picks up the scissors then it is said that they will become a tailor, if they pick up the ruler then they will become an engineer. If the baby picks up the mirror then they will have happiness and richness, if they pick up the bread they will take care of their family and if they pick up the holly book they will have belief in God and religion. Mercan's family had added one or two other items to the list such as a pen to represent a Solicitor, a boat for a Sailor, a paint pallet for an Artist and a trumpet for a Musician.
Not only do these objects symbolise what occupation the baby will follow in later life but also what kind of person they will become in the future. It is not unusual however, for the baby to be so confused that is does not pick up any of the objects.
Mercan is off he has made his decision.
'Look everyone, I am going to be a Solicitor'.
After the ceremony the baby is given gifts and the baby and guests sit down to a meal, of which one of the dishes is the traditional wheat dish. One of the guests who must have healthy teeth, is given the first piece of the traditional wheat dish to signify that the baby will similarly acquire strong teeth.
Leftover food is plated up onto small plates and is distributed to friends and neighbours who have not been able to attend the ceremony as the more 'tooth wheat' that is distributed the healthier the baby's teeth will be.
Giving food away, especially to the not so wealthy, is an important element of Turkish culture as it is seen as a way of balancing inequality and making everyone feel a member of the society.
The mystic number seven comes into play here as well, in that at least seven plates of food should be handed out to neighbours. After the food is consumed the plates should not be washed, otherwise the baby's teeth will decay,and should contain a small gift when handed back.
I would like to give a big thank you to Canan Yurkdakul for providing this information and for inviting us to the celebrations for her son Mercan.