There are two main religious holidays in Turkey, the first Ramazan Bayramı and the second Kurban Bayramı. These holidays are determined by the Islamic (lunar) calendar and change dates each year.
Ramazan (Ramadan in English) is when Turks fast from sunrise to sunset for approximately one month. Following Ramazan is a three day festival, Ramazan Bayramı, known as the candy bayram. Schools and offices close, families get together and even children go around in their neighborhood wishing people a Happy Bayram and hope for candy in return (similar to Halloween trick-or-treating without the costumes).
Kurban Bayramı, the Feast of the Sacrifice, is the most important religious holiday of the year and takes place 70 days after Ramazan and the holiday lasts for 4 days.
Similar to Christmas, families get together and you visit the tombstones of loved ones. Family ties are strengthened and children are given an opportunity to bond with older generations. Among Turks, kissing the hand of an elder and touching it to your forehead is a sign of respect shown to elders. During the Bayram if a a child remembers to do this, they are rewarded with money.
It’s the Feast of the Sacrifice commemorating the Islamic prophet of Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to show his faithfulness to Allah (God). During this time, a young goat or sheep is sacrificed and the meat is shared among the family, friends, neighbors and with the less fortunate. It’s a holiday about charity and community.
HOW I CELEBRATED
I celebrated the holiday in Bartin, Turkey with Umut’s family. We opted out and did not participate in a sacrifice. Instead we focused on family and eating many delicious, homemade meals together.
Maybe two years ago I asked Umut for my sister, do people make or buy phyllo dough (yufka in Turkish)? He said they buy it because it’s too difficult to make.
Umut’s aunt however, made this entire tray of baklava, the legnth of my arm. It took 1 full day to make. She made the phyllo dough from scratch and then made 80 thin, paper-like layers. She explained it’s quite difficult because you have to roll the dough so thin, your shoulders and arms become soar. Her mother had taught her, and today she continues to make it every year for the bayram to share among friends, family and neighbors.
I have two words to say…”eline sağlık”, it’s an expression that loosely translates to ‘health to your hands’.