As a Muslim country, Turkey celebrates many traditional, annual Muslim festivals. As a tourist, it can be exciting to celebrate these festivals alongside the locals however it is important that you understand the religious reasoning behind each festival so as to avoid offense. We have compiled a simple guide to the biggest Turkish festivals so you can understand them and become involved within them, should you wish to. As with the Christian festival of Easter, the dates of these Muslim festivals change annually so it is necessary to check before you visit any Muslim country.
Ramadan is the most important Muslim festival throughout the world. It is familiar to most Britons and other countries which have a large Muslim population. Ramadan sees Muslims abstain from food, water, tobacco and sexual relations, within the hours of daylight, throughout the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. In a similar way to the Christian practice of Lent, Ramadan is practiced to starve the body of sin, to allow those practicing it to appreciate what they have and to give to those in need. As the festival affects the intake of food Turkish eateries may have restricted menus or be reluctant to serve food in the hours of daylight, however most restaurant owners will still be good-natured to tourists throughout Ramadan.
Kadir Gecesi (The Eve of Power)
This festival takes place on the 27th and 28th days of the month of Ramadan. Mosques are, traditionally, illuminated throughout the whole month to give those practicing Ramadan the opportunity to pray whenever they like and to declare their thanks to Allah. Throughout these two days, mosques become especially busy at night as it is believed that prayers made at this time hold particular importance. Similarly, on Arife, the last day of Ramadan, it is customary for practicing Muslims to visit cemeteries and pay their respects to their departed ancestors. Because of these dedicated days of prayer, shops and restaurants may be closed within the evenings.
Şeker Bayramı (Sugar Holiday)
This three-day festival immediately follows Ramadan. It celebrates family reunions and the giving of presents and sweets to children, much like the Christian sentiment of Christmas. During the period following Ramadan, you will have to book long in advance to acquire a table at a desirable establishment. Restaurants will be extremely busy with locals throughout this period, but it will give tourists a chance to share in the joy and celebration which follows the fasting of Ramadan.
Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice)
This festival lasts for four days and, as with the others, involves much celebration. The festival honours the willingness of Abraham’s son, Ishmael, to completely submit to Allah’s command for him to be sacrificed. As a reward, Allah presented Abraham with a lamb to sacrifice instead of having to sacrifice his son; to honour Ishmael’s submission to Allah, practicing Muslim’s sacrifice a sheep to Allah. As only wealthy families can afford to slaughter whole animals, sacrificed meat is distributed to the poor so that they may partake in the festivities. Again, as with ?eker Bayram?, restaurants and modes of transport will become extremely busy during this period so it is important to book in advance and plan journeys well.