The term “holiday” may bring back memories of excitedly opening presents on Christmas morning. It may give one flashbacks of creating mashed potato volcanoes or stuffing turkeys— and one’s own stomach and oneself. It may remind a person of those hilarious family game nights or those spectacular dance parties.
Holidays may mean different things to people from different cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities. Still, these holidays are a part of people’s history and their roots, traditions that never grow old, especially for the Turkish people. Turkish holidays are a vital part of the Turkish culture, some of these holidays being celebrated in other countries as well, while others being truly one of a kind.
Yeni Yıl is the Turkish equivalent of New Year with all the Christmas decorations. The twinkling Christmas lights, sparkling Christmas trees, and crisp wrapped gifts are all part of Turkey’s huge New Year’s Eve celebration. Extended family and friends dress up extravagantly and come together to feast on food and laughter, while crowds gather at the city center to watch the countless fireworks light up the sky and wait in anticipation as the national lottery winner is announced. Also, there’s no need to worry about Santa Claus losing his job. In fact, according to legend, he was actually born in Turkey.
Çocuk Bayram or Children’s Day was named and dedicated to all the children in the world by the first Turkish president on the day the Turkish Parliament was founded. On April 23 each year, kids receive gifts, much like a second birthday, so if a person wants two gifts for his birthday, move to Turkey. The Turkish children also perform songs, recite poems and present traditional folk dances for their teachers, parents and government officials at school.
Gençlik ve Spor Bayram, which can be translated as Youth and Sport Day, is celebrated on May 19, where various sport events are held including marathons and soccer matches. It is also called Commemoration Day in remembrance of the first president and founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. This national hero’s most famous quote is probably “Ne Mutlu Türküm diyene,” meaning, “How happy is he who can call himself a Turk.”
Ramadan is a religious holiday where many Turkish people fast during the day, but are able to eat and drink before sunrise and after sunset. The fasting continues for forty days in preparation for Kurban Bayram, where each household slaughters a lamb to atone for their sins. Kurban Bayram is then followed by Şeker Bayram (Sugar Holiday). This is a lighthearted, joyous festivity where every supermarket sells mini chocolates and candies to celebrate the forgiving of sins. It is also the time when every child thinks they’ve died and gone to heaven as they are allowed to go from door to door and collect candy from neighbors.
Cumhuriyet Bayram or Independence Day is the largest holiday in Turkey. On October 29 Turkish flags can be seen on every corner, much like Starbucks in the US, with their red and white colors gracefully blowing in the autumn wind. People also hang flags over balconies and windows or simply wave them in the numerous parades that fill the streets. Consisting of a white crescent moon and white star with a red background, the Turkish flag is a true symbol of the Turkish culture, one of great pride for their country. Even though there are many stories about the flag, the favorite one as told by the Turkish people is that the moon represents their religion and the red the blood of all those who fought for the freedom of the people.
And so, during this holiday season, or any holiday in fact, hopefully people will not be so obsessed with baking exactly five different kinds of pie, wearing the best outfit, or having only “perfect moments.” Most often those moments are unplanned and spontaneous, like when your sibling sticks her hand in your birthday cake, or you open the wrong present, or a food fight breaks out in the kitchen. It is these moments during the holidays that people remember and these moments that turn into memories.