Kalpak Day in Kyrgyzstan Date in the current year: March 5, 2024

Kalpak Day in Kyrgyzstan Kalpak Day, also known as Ak Kalpak Day, is a Kyrgyz holiday observed on March 5. It celebrates kalpak, a high-crowned hat which is considered the national headdress of the Kygryz people. The holiday was first celebrated in 2011, and received official status in 2016.

A kalpak, also spelled qalpaq or calpack, is a high-crowned cap made of sheepskin or felt. It is traditionally worn by men in Turkey, the Balkans, throughout the Central Asia and the Caucasus, and in some parts of Ukraine. There are many styles of kalpak, as well as different kalpaks for different seasons.

In Kyrgyzstan, a white felt kalpak is a traditional headdress. In Kyrgyz, it is called “ak kalpak”, which is literally translated as “white kalpak”. The shape and color of the Kyrgyz kalpak have a special symbolism: a cone-shaped white cap resembles the snow-capped peaks of the Tian Shan Mountains, which occupy more than half of the territory of Kyrgyzstan. The shape, color and embroidery patterns of the Kyrgyz kalpak have been passed on unchanged, generation after generation.

A kalpak can be trimmed with red, brown or black, depending on the age of the wearer. Kalpaks worn by children have a red trimming, while kalpaks worn by older men are trimmed with brown or black. The four lines of trimming intersect at the top of a kalpak, symbolizing the sun and life. In addition, kalpaks are often decorated with embroidered ornaments. There are more than 80 styles of kalpak, many of which reflect the age and social status of the wearer.

In rural areas, kalpak is still a popular everyday headdress that can be worn regardless of the weather, since it perfectly protects from the sun, heat, cold, and rain. City dwellers rarely wear kalpak in everyday life, but always put it on for special occasions, such as holidays and family gatherings. A white kalpak is an integral part of the uniforms worn by official delegates and athletic teams that represent Kyrgyzstan internationally. In addition, ak kalpak is a popular gift for men. It is presented to honored foreign guests as well as to statesmen upon assuming office.

In Kyrgyz culture, kalpak is treated with the utmost respect. It should be kept clean at all times; it must not be thrown or intentionally damaged; it must be taken off with two hands. A kalpak that has been given as a gift cannot be given to someone else or sold; it can only be inherited. It is believed that a man who has lost his kalpak also loses some of his piety, intelligence and dignity along with it.

The celebration of Ak Kalpak Day was initiated by Kyrgyz filmmaker Yrysbek Jabirov who wanted to preserve the significance of kalpak as one of the national symbols of Kyrgyzstan for the future generations. The first celebration took place on March 5, 2011. Five years later, the Supreme Council (parliament) of Kyrgyzstan declared it an official holiday.

Photo: Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism of the Kyrgyz Republic

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