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The religious festivals in Turkey hold an important place in the Turkish culture and they are celebrated every year joyously by millions of people.
The Republic of Turkey is a secular country. The citizens living in Turkey may belong to different religions and there are various belief systems that people adopt. However, because the majority of the population living in these lands has been affiliated with Islam for centuries, especially during the Ottoman Empire, many Islamic traditions, including religious festivals have become an integral part of the dominant culture in Turkey.
Religious Festivals in Turkey
There are two main religious festivals in Turkey; the Ramadan Festival and The Festival of Sacrifice. Both of these religious festivals are also public holidays in Turkey and they are celebrated every year with great enthusiasm. The first three days of the religious festivals in Turkey are official holidays. It means government offices, educational institutions, banks, post offices, schools, and most private businesses are closed on festival days. Though, a great number of museums, restaurants, shopping malls, and other types of social attractions are open with adjusted holiday hours for people that want to spend their holidays out.
The dates for the religious festivals in Turkey change every year, approximately eleven days earlier each year than the year before because Turkey uses the Gregorian Calendar whereas these religious festivals are coordinated according to a lunar calendar called the Hijri Calendar, which is used by the Islamic world.
The religious festivals in Turkey are a time for coming together with your loved ones. People visit their relatives, neighbors, friends, and especially the elderly or give them a call. It is a Turkish festival tradition to serve some sweets, candy, coffee, desserts, and whatnot for those who visit you at home during the festival. Another tradition related to the religious festivals in Turkey is that children kiss their parents and elderly’s hand to get their blessing on the festival days. It is also customary to give a small amount of allowance, gifts, or candy to the children who kisses one’s hand.
During the religious festivals in Turkey, which are also three to four days public holidays, the traffic in the big cities like Istanbul and Ankara, as well as the intercity travels get very intense as most people prefer to spend their holiday traveling with their family. Especially when the religious festival dates fall in the summer months, it is the most crowded and busiest time of the year for vacation towns and summer resorts as people combine the official holiday with their vacation days. It may be very difficult to travel, book a hotel, or a flight throughout the religious festivals in Turkey during summer.
Ramadan Festival in Turkey
Ramadan Festival (Ramazan Bayramı in Turkish), also called the Sugar Feast, Festival of Candy and Bayram of Sweets, is a religious festival celebrated in Turkey every year. It is a three-day-long public holiday and it comes after a month of fasting of Ramadan. The Ramadan Festival heralds the end of fasting and the return to normal. People celebrate this religious festival in Turkey mainly by reuniting with their families and friends and gathering around big breakfast or dinner tables. Traditionally, people visit their loved ones and the elderly to pay their respect to them. Customarily, people serve tea or Turkish coffee with candy, sweets, or traditional Turkish desserts like Baklava for their guests that visit them at their home.
Furthermore, children go from door to door to visit their neighbors to wish them happy festivals and get their blessing, and in return, they are given a small gift, allowance, or candy and sweets. Serving candy and desserts for each other is one of the main traditions in the Ramadan Festival, which is why this religious festival in Turkey is also called the Sugar Feast. Another essential tradition of the Ramadan Festival is to remember the poor.
During the month of Ramadan and the Ramadan Festival, people donate money or give away provisions for the poor and needy as an act of charity. Other celebrations for Ramadan Festival in Turkey include concerts at town squares or stadiums, fairs and carnivals in cities, and seeing traditional Turkish shadow theatres called Hacivat and Karagoz.
The Feast of Sacrifice in Turkey
The Feast of Sacrifice (Kurban Bayramı) is a four-day religious festival in Turkey, and just like the Ramadan Festival, the Feast of Sacrifice is also an official public holiday. The Feast of Sacrifice is celebrated by not only many people in Turkey but also millions of people around the world with devotion.
The Feast of Sacrifice commemorates the story of Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail (Ishmael). As an act of obedience to Allah’s (God) command, Ibrahim willingly takes his son to sacrifice for Allah. But upon his obedience, Allah sends him a lamb to sacrifice instead of his son. Therefore, the Feast of Sacrifice has the tradition and the ritual of sacrificing a domestic animal such as a sheep, goat, ram, or cattle.
Since only wealthy families could afford to buy an animal or meat, traditionally, one-third of the sacrificed animal’s meat is shared with the family, neighbors, and relatives, and two-thirds of the meat is given to the poor and the needy. The Feast of Sacrifice in Turkey is a time of taking care of and helping the poor. During this festival, many people in Turkey not only give away meat for those who need it, but they also make all types of donations for the poor and needy, including sending provisions, buying clothes and other basics, donating money, etc.
The other festival traditions of The Feast of Sacrifice are similar to the other religious festival in Turkey, Ramadan Festival. Families gather together, people are visiting each other and paying their respect for their parents and the elderly. Many traditional foods and desserts are served for the guests.
Final Words – Religious Festivals in Turkey
Alternatively, some people prefer to use the Feast of Sacrifice, just like the other national or religious festivals in Turkey, to go on a vacation with their family and friends as it is a four-day-long public holiday.