As some of you will know, for the past month Muslims all over the world have been participating in Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. After a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, they celebrate the end of Ramadan with a three day festival known as ‘Şeker Bayramı’ (sweet/sugar festival) or Eid al-Fitr.
The festival begins at sundown on the last day of Ramadan, which this year falls today, 24th June 2017. After the call to prayer at sundown, people break their fast for the last time and the celebrations begin.
In Turkey, generally the most important day of the holiday is the first full day, which will be tomorrow, Sunday 25th June. Families may wake up early in the morning, get washed, clean and wear new or their best clothes, the men may go to mosque for their Eid prayer. Many will donate money to poor or needy people as an act of charity. The holiday period is seen as a chance to forget any grudges or issues with people and to forgive, forget and move on. It’s customary for the younger members of the family to visit their elders, neighbours and friends and wish them “İyi Bayramlar”. They greet their elders by kissing their right hand then raise it to their forehead, if you have Turkish relatives you’ll know what I’m talking about! There will have been days of preparation beforehand with houses being thoroughly cleaned, traditional desserts like Baklava being cooked and new clothes purchased. In the days leading up to bayram the supermarkets are VERY busy with people stocking up on sweets and chocolate to give their visitors, hence the name of the festival literally translates to ‘sugar/sweet holiday’.
Aspects of the festive period reminds me of a cross between Easter and Halloween. Of course they are very different celebrations for very different purposes, but there are similarities – traditionally at Easter children would be given new clothes to wear and obviously there’s the giving of the chocolate eggs. During bayram the children often knock on their neighbours doors and are given sweets and chocolates or even money, similar to Halloween.
How will it affect your holiday to Turkey?
During the whole 3 days government buildings, banks and offices are closed and ATM machines are likely to run out of cash – so if you need some, get it as early as possible. Most of the shops, bars and restaurants in resorts will remain open as they have to make money. You may wish to greet people in shops, hotel staff or waiters with wishes for bayram such as: “Bayramınız kutlu olsun” / “Bayramınız mübarek olsun”– may your holiday be blessed, or “Iyi Bayramlar” – happy holidays.
It’s normal for the roads to be very busy at this time of year as families go on a 3 day vacation or to visit family and friends in other towns and cities, coaches and buses are likely to be full and you may notice that there are a lot more Turkish people and cars in your holiday resort during this time, beaches are busier and hotels are full. It’s advised to avoid travelling if you can, even the small dolmus’ are likely to get very busy, and that’s never fun in the summer heat. In general, it shouldn’t affect your holiday too much, just be aware of the celebrations going on, you may be offered sweets and it could be considered rude if you decline. The atmosphere in general will be happy, with plenty of excited children running around!
My experience of bayram?
During my time living in Turkey, I experienced the holiday 3 times. Like most of the people working in tourism, Berkay never had any time off whatsoever during Bayram, in fact it’s quite the opposite, most tourism staff work harder and longer with more guests staying at the hotels and going out to restaurants! Spare a thought for those workers, unable to travel home to spend the holiday with their families, the ones who work hard to make sure everyone else has a lovely holiday instead.
This year, Berkay is off work on Sunday so we might do something a bit celebratory, even if it is just eating some baklava and more chocolate than usual, it would be rude not to, right?! It’s his first ever bayram outside of Turkey, so although he never really made a big thing of it whilst there anyway, I expect he’ll miss being in Turkey and soaking up the atmosphere! A lot of our local supermarkets, Asda, Morrisons and Tesco, actually have whole ‘Eid’ aisles at the moment, so I might have to make a quick trip later and see if I can find something a bit special for him.
İyi Bayramlar/Eid Mubarak