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Celebrating A 'Golden Wedding' With The Altai People

In Russia's Altai Republic in southern Siberia, the small Altai minority maintains a unique set of cultural traditions. Many people from Kyrgyzstan consider the region their historic homeland, and some travel to the Altai Republic to learn more about their ethnic roots. A group of journalists and bloggers from Kyrgyzstan recently visited the village of Kosh-Agach, bordering Mongolia, to observe a traditional wedding ceremony, referred to as a "Golden Wedding."

The village of Kosh-Agach, or "Twin Trees," is named for the two trees on the otherwise barren landscape. During the wedding, branches from the trees will be planted in the ground, representing the families of the bride and groom.
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The village of Kosh-Agach, or "Twin Trees," is named for the two trees on the otherwise barren landscape. During the wedding, branches from the trees will be planted in the ground, representing the families of the bride and groom.

The wedding celebration begins with lighting a fire with oil and cotton.
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The wedding celebration begins with lighting a fire with oil and cotton.

The groom is expected to buy a wedding dress for the bride.
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The groom is expected to buy a wedding dress for the bride.

Members of the groom's family bring a wedding curtain, which will hang in the couple's bedroom, to the house where the bride is hiding.
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Members of the groom's family bring a wedding curtain, which will hang in the couple's bedroom, to the house where the bride is hiding.

Relatives on both sides already know each other well, but tradition dictates that they must introduce themselves at the wedding.
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Relatives on both sides already know each other well, but tradition dictates that they must introduce themselves at the wedding.

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The bride puts on her wedding dress.
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The bride puts on her wedding dress.

Relatives escort the bride to the groom's house.
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Relatives escort the bride to the groom's house.

The groom's sisters treat the bride's hair with a mixture of milk and pine needles and arrange her hair into two braids, the style for married women.
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The groom's sisters treat the bride's hair with a mixture of milk and pine needles and arrange her hair into two braids, the style for married women.

The groom holds a platter with a sheep's head and cuts of meat while guests say blessings for the couple.
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The groom holds a platter with a sheep's head and cuts of meat while guests say blessings for the couple.

Relatives light a fire in honor of the couple, and the groom puts meat on to cook.
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Relatives light a fire in honor of the couple, and the groom puts meat on to cook.

The bride pours a cup of meat broth into the fire. According to a folk saying, the higher the flames reach, the luckier the bride will be.
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The bride pours a cup of meat broth into the fire. According to a folk saying, the higher the flames reach, the luckier the bride will be.

After the traditional wedding ceremony, the couple changes into Western dress as the celebration continues.
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After the traditional wedding ceremony, the couple changes into Western dress as the celebration continues.

The toastmaster challenges the bride with questions and tasks to fulfill.
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The toastmaster challenges the bride with questions and tasks to fulfill.

The wedding banquet
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The wedding banquet

The motto on the wall reads “Love and happiness.” 
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The motto on the wall reads “Love and happiness.” 

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