Holiday is not just a day to avoid work or school for Turks, on the contrary every single holiday has a significant role in the daily life of Turkish people. No matter the holiday is considered as national or religious, each holiday is celebrated by masses all around the country. It is an undeniable fact that COVID 19 pandemic had a dramatic effect on these celebrations but as life returns to its normal, people will return to colourful streets in these significant dates. Following lines will inform you about the pandemic free practises for holidays in Turkey.
Holiday Bringing the New Year, January 1st
We must mention Christmas practise before mentioning the New Year’s Day. Keep in mind that Republic of Turkey is a secular state and expats and students are allowed to take the Christmas Holiday off from their companies and schools. Although Turkey does not recognise Christmas as a formal holiday, New Year is celebrated by almost everyone effusively. Especially main streets of İstanbul are garnished by the municipality days before the holiday and public concerts and celebrations are given in the main squares. Almost each pub and restaurant organise a special event for the night of December 31st, most of which with fixed menu pricing. Home parties are also a very common practise especially among the white collar and expat population all around Turkey. This holiday bringing hope for a new year’s good news is celebrated with joy, and usually with a little extra alcohol consumption and parties.
Holiday Belongs to The Children of The World, April 23rd
Almost each national holiday in Turkey is an anniversary of a specific event that happened during Turkey’s War of Independence. National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, April 23rd is no exception to the rule, but stands alone in two ways. People celebrate the establishment of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on April 23rd, 1920, which has happened during the War Of Independence and 3 years before the establishment of the Republic herself. The second and maybe the most important exceptional way of this holiday is the fact that, it is gifted to all children of the world. Atatürk, the founder father of Turkey always expressed how important the children and youth were to him for carrying not only the country but the world to a better future. That is why he has gifted this holiday which is the celebration of democracy to the children in a global scale. Children from all over the world are invited to Turkey for celebrations and a child symbolically takes the office of President. Colourful streets, public celebrations, concerts, shows and joyful celebrations are common practises especially in major cities such as İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir. Is not a holiday celebrating democracy and dedicated to children and a better future for the world what we all need?
Holiday of Labour, May 1st
This holiday is the second youngest off-day for the working class because has been formally recognised by the state in 2010. Not entire population of Turkey has a political character but the recent history of the country has shaped with political conflicts that have directly effected the urban population. One of the dramatic turning points is May 1st, 1977, which is known as “bloody May 1st “among Turks. This Labour Day was unfortunately resulted with a major clash in Taksim Square which was resulted with loss of 34 people and injury of 136, according to formal records. Left wing political parties and labour unions’ representatives try to march to Taksim Square on each Labour Day ever since, which is unfortunately not welcomed by the local law enforcement. Although it was celebrated by masses in Taksim Square between 2010 to 2012, it is a wise choice to stay away from Taksim Square in order to avoid from tear gas. It is a common practice of the government to cancel main roads and metro stations reaching to Taksim Square on Labour Day, so make sure to check your destination if you need to travel in this holiday. Same rule applies to the main squares and streets of other cities as well, but Taksim Square has a symbolic value for the unions and government.
Holiday for The Youth and Sports, May 19th
Most national holidays are the anniversaries of significant days of the War of Independence of Turks, as mentioned before, which stands for May 19th as well. This date was the formal beginning of Atatürk’s resistance in 1919 by resigning from his general rank and duty in Ottoman Army leading the resistance forces from Anatolia. This holiday has also been dedicated to the future under the title of “youth and sports”.
A fun fact about this holiday; a journalist once asks his birthday to Atatürk which makes him pause for a moment, because he actually does not know it. An orphaned boy growing to be a general fighting for the two thirds of his life and leading his nation to a war of salvation resulting with the establishment of a secular and democratic country and continuously working on new revolutions apparently never thought of having a birthday party of his own. He answers, “I was born in a spring’s day, my mother would say. I would like to think of it as May 19th, 1919, the date that our War Of Independence officially began.
Holiday That Reminds Civil Resistance, July 15th
July 15th, 2016 was a dark day in Turkey’s recent history. As it has turned out later, a group of people from an Islamic cult have staffed and organised within the governmental institutions, mainly armed forces and police and tried to overthrow the ruling government with a coup. All to the good, the soldiers and policemen loyal to the republic and civil society refused to obey the coup and resisted on the streets resulting with unfortunate loss of over 300, approximately 200 of which were civilians. This holiday is dedicated to this resistance and is named Democracy and National Unity Day. Celebrations are usually done by the government and have a formal nature.
Holiday Celebrates a Great Military Victory, August 30th
War of Independence of Turks is not an ordinary military action, but a major public effort given to save the country from a military invasion and resulting with establishing a modern country. That is why this war’s official victory day’s anniversary is celebrated with joy by the crowds. Organisations of municipalities in the main squares and streets are indispensable especially in the major cities and the date is welcomed by civil celebrations. Military shows and parades were used to take place in those squares and streets, but this practice has ended since 2016 because of the failed coup attempt.
Holiday Celebrating the Young and Modern Republic, September 29th
Although inheriting a vast history, Republic of Turkey herself is a very young country. Coming into the world in 1923, the republic changed the daily life practices of her public with major revolutions. That is why, celebrating her birthday means a lot to Turks with joy and excitement. Open air events and organisations are done by municipalities and public participates to these celebrations with masses. Fireworks show in Bosporus was used to be a tradition and has also been done in 2019 but has been cancelled in 2020 due to its damage to nature and especially birds. Nevertheless, a beautiful light show is always going to be done in Bosporus for celebrating the Republic day.
Holidays may mean simple off-days for many people but are taken very seriously and celebrated joyfully in Turkey, do not stand back to enjoy them as well.