What is Kurban Bayram?

As some of you may know, it is Kurban Bayram next week, but what does this mean, and how will it affect your holiday to Turkey?

Bayram literally means festival, or holiday, and is used to describe national and religious holidays in Turkey. There are two main religious (Islamic) holidays, one being Seker Bayram (celebrated after Ramadan), and the other being Kurban bayram, which is celebrated next week. In the UK this is known as Ed-al-Adha.

Kurban Bayram is the festival of the sacrifice, where millions of people sacrifice an animal to commemorate the Islamic prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. Animals such as cows, goats and most often, sheep, are sacrificed. Once sacrificed, the meat is shared out, some is given to the poor, some is kept for the family, and some is given to other relatives, friends and neighbours. Of course Kurban Bayram/Eid isn’t just celebrated in Turkey, it is celebrated by Muslims all over the world.

This year, preparation for Kurban Bayram begins on the eve of the festival, the 14th October. Kurban Bayram will run from and including 15th-18th October and government offices, schools, post offices, banks, and some supermarkets will be closed throughout these days. Turkish people will be busy visiting family and friends, so roads, transport, hotels and restaurants will be very busy and full during the festivities.

What is my experience?
I was living in Turkey last year for Bayram and the atmosphere during this time is very special, it’s even something an outsider who doesn’t celebrate can sense. The only thing I can compare it to is Christmas. All the family comes together and enjoys time off from work and school to celebrate.

Berkay came home from work on the morning of the first day of Bayram and said our landlord had invited us downstairs for Turkish tea and to see the animal they were sacrificing. We stood on our balcony and watched as he tied the sheep up, said a prayer and slit its throat. It was all over very quickly. After he had killed it, he cut it’s head off, hung it up and began to skin it, then he cut its feet off, finished skinning it and cut its organs out. The wool and skin was left out to dry and the blood all washed away. That was it. My landlord is practically a farmer and owns sheep, goats and chickens so he was able to perform the sacrifice on his farm land, however, normally the sacrifice is supposed to be carried out by a professional in designated areas. It is not supposed to be done publicly in parks or playgrounds nowadays.

The sacrifice was over very quickly and it was very humane, it could be very disturbing for some people to watch though. It upset me a little, but it’s good to be reminded where your food comes from. Meat is so readily available in supermarkets these days that we all take it for granted and don’t really stop to think about where it really comes from.

The meat is given out to poor people, friends and neighbours. We got given a whole leg, it was a bit weird seeing it in my freezer.

In the evening we all gathered around for a barbeque downstairs in the garden (we all know how Turks like their bbq’s, don’t we?!) and of course the only thing on the menu was the meat that had formed part of a fluffy white sheep in my garden only a few hours earlier.

I have seen comments from people in the past who say the process of sacrificing millions of sheep over a few days for a religious festival is barbaric and inhumane, however, the meaning behind the tradition and the process of giving meat to those less fortunate people is a good one in my opinion, it is not meaningless killing for the sake of it, it has a purpose. Some people do find this an outdated, old fashioned tradition and some modern families like to donate money to charity instead.

Those normal tourists on holiday are very unlikely to see anything going on, they will probably be blissfully unaware of the sacrificing going on, as I mentioned above, it is often only done in designated areas in main towns. In the days leading up to Kurban Bayram you may see truck loads of sheep and goats being taken to towns, villages and cities. You will know the fate of those livestock on board. You may notice restaurants and hotels more busy than normal so it’s a good idea to book in advance if you plan to visit or go out during the next week. Remember banks will be closed and ATM’s may run out of cash. It is a nice idea to wish people happy holidays by saying ”Iyi Bayramlar”.

Overall, my experience of Kurban Bayram is a good one, It is more than just a bunch of crazy Turk’s cutting sheep’s heads off, in most cases, it is a traditional, civilized, family celebration of a religious festival. 
I wish I were there this year!

16 thoughts on “What is Kurban Bayram?

  1. Hi Danni. Just popping in briefly as I have been in England since the 1st visiting daughter and grandsons, so very little time. Just wanted to say I hope everything is going well for you and hope you find a job soon.

    As far as Kurban Bayram is concerned, I pretty much agree with everything you say. I did have some awful experiences of the slaughter in the early days here when it was done by people who were inexperienced and the animals suffered as a result. Thank goodness that things have changed since those days and it’s now more controlled. Personally, I can’t watch the slaughter, but I have no objection to it at all. I accept that this is part of the culture in which I have chosen to live. And I eat meat, so to object would make me a hypocrite. xxx

    • Hi. I am in Turkey at the moment and came acreoss your blog. I’m always fascinated by other cultures and tradition and anyway…. on the point of slaughtering million ions of animals for one day, it that not we do to Turkeys, beef, gammon etc for Christmas and I’ve never nocticed the neighbours sharing theirs out to those not in their family circle. Don’t you think it’s somewhat amazing how we can reasons why it’s fine for us to do it, but if it’s for a different reason and not something we adhere to ourselves it must be barbaric and wrong! Will be checking out lots of your other blogs now. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for this explanation of Bayram, because I didn’t knew much of the tradition beforehand. I live in Alanya now, but I have only lived here for 3 months, so I need to learn a lot about the culture and traditions:) Great to find your blog.. Looks very interesting:)

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  4. Pingback: Celebrating kurban bayram with Berkay.. | living the turkish dream

  5. Hi … I too would like to write about my experiences about Turkey , holidaying there ,, I love it and one day it is my dream to teach english there .
    I’m from Melbourne Australia .

  6. Hi! Enjoyed your reading your blog and about you. Turkey is a fascinating and challenging place. It has a way of bringing out things we did not realize about ourselves back home. I wish you the best! I have been here many years and live in ıstanbul. I write as a columnist for Today’s Zaman about culture and was commissioned to write the book Culture Smart: Turkey (2006, now in 4th ed.) I am owner of Greenhouse, an English bookstore and if you want to more aboout our services just contact me on Facebook or serach for Greenhousekitap on Facebook.

    Charlotte McPherson

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  8. Iyi gunler !! I am an American who lived in Turkey, for 5 1/2 years. I have celebrated Bayram from Istanbul to Sivas. I love your explanation of Bayram. I think the hardest part for me was to see the sheep tied up in the streets, with ribbons tied to their heads, because when I saw those ribbons I knew they were marked for slaughter. But I loved the fact that meat was given to the poor…which there are so many of in Turkey. I grew up on a dairy farm in USA, so the idea of slaughter was far from new to me. I loved seker bayram as well….it was the same as Halloween here in the States except the children didnt dress in costumes. I would plan my trip back to the states a few weeks before seker bayram and bring a suitcase of American candy back…which the children adored !! I live back in USA now and miss Turkiye so very much…butun kalbimle !!

  9. I am a Turkish woman married to an American for 21 years. I liked your blog very much. I would like if you also add that this sacrifice Holiday is inspired from the story from the Bible and Koran.

    About Ibrahim and Sara who didn’t have children for 7 years. They prayed so much to GOD. St.Ibrahim(Abraham)bargained with GOD and said if you give me a child I will sacrifice him/her to you. Then that year they have a son . When the son was 7 years old St Abraham explained what he has to do to his son. His son said” Of course, dad”. They go up the hill. His son lays down his head, St.. Abraham when starts the procedure, God sends an angel with a sheep and says”
    OH, MY SON, you kept your promise, I would never let you sacrifice your only beloved son for me. Instead here is a sheep, and share it with your family and the unfortunate.

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