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!