Muslim boys are usually circumcised between the ages of 5 and 1 1. In the past, this surgical procedure was performed at home by a circumciser or barber. Odd-numbered ages were chosen as a rule since they were thought to be luckier. Those who were well-off frequently arranged for the circumcision of the sons of local poor families along with that of their own offspring.
A boy who was to be circumcised was dressed in a costume whose two most distinctive elements were a cap or crown and a double transverse sash worn over the chest and inscribed with the formula Maallah ("May God protect him"). A week before the ceremony, the boy would be taken on a round of visits to friends and relatives where he would kiss the hands of elders. (This ceremony also served as an invitation to the circumcision feast.) In Istanbul it was also the custom to pay a visit to the tomb of Eyiip Sultan to pray for forbearance and salvation. The boys might also be mounted on ponies or horses and paraded around the neighborhood accompanied by musicians and poetry-reciters. The day before the circumcision, the boys would be taken to the baths and washed. Their right hands would also be tinged with henna.
The circumcision bed would be set up in the main room of the house or, weather permitting, in the garden. There was much variation in customs from one locality to the next but for the most part this bed would be decorated with embroideries borrowed from neighbors. The bed and walls were draped with embroidered coverings. A mouse (symbolizing agility) and a turtle (symbolizing longevity) fashioned from silk crepe were mounted in prominent places on the bed.
Magicians and acrobats were hired as entertainment at these feasts and puppet-shows would be given. Guests showered the boys with gifts sticl 1 as watches, writing-sets, toys, gold, or money.