There are many specific elements of Karaim cultural heritage, but especially the conscious following of national traditions makes the preservation of Karaim identity possible. And during the long course of time and despite various historical difficulties the main Karaim rites were kept up. Their power even today stimulates the youth’s feelings of national identity.
At the engagement ceremony the youth is electing the leader of all the wedding and handing him over a thin withy red-banded stick ‘chybukh’, which is for symbol of leader’s power.
Karaim’ rites are related to the most important moments of human life – birth, marriage and death. Religious calendar and seasons circle give some special occasions as well (for example, young moon, harvest, sacrifice festivals, etc.). But even in the religious festivals it is more important for the Karaims to preserve their national customs.
The most solemn rite observed by the Karaims up to these days, is the wedding (toj). For a birth another kind of festivities are dedicated. When a girl is born, in kenesa kutlamach (a blessing prayer and giving of a name) should be offered. When a boy is born, the occasion used to require much greater celebration. However, nowadays it is just limited to a short ceremony in kenesa (the name of the newborn is loudly announced and a special blessing is sung) and a little party at home.
When a person dies, he is usually buried as soon as possible. There are Karaim cemeteries in Trakai, Vilnius, and Panevėžys. When laying down the corps, his relatives sit by the closed coffin till the burial. At that time the elder men of the community recite the psalms. There is a custom to burn as many candles, as many family members are morning. The coffin inside is lined with flax. Karaims are buried with their faces to the South. During the burial ceremony the people are not allowed to visit other burial-grounds. If the kinsmen invite, guests return to the deceased person’s house. The prayers for his soul are recited there once more. Such public prayer sahynč (remembrance) is held in the deceased person’s home every day the whole week, also after thirty days and in a year after his death.
One of the brightest and most solemn agricultural festivals Orach toju (Harvest festival) can’t be held any more, because after the II World War Karaims lost their lands. During the last harvest festival in 1938 a harvest wreath was made, which up to these days hangs in Trakai kenesa. It only reminds us of the former close relations between Karaims and the holy nature.