Post written by Elif, United Planet Team member.
In Turkey, we celebrate New Year’s but not Christmas. We only have one day of holiday for New Year’s Day. However, shops put out everything for New Year’s at the start of December. For New Year’s women go to the hairdresser and dress up in red lingerie, which is always thought to bring luck for the whole year! In my workplace all the departments decorate their own Christmas tree and we also have one huge Christmas tree planted in the company’s garden. As a team we draw names to decide who buys a present for whom and hold it secret till the last day. We also hold a New Year’s cocktail party.
On New Year’s Eve we come to work and at night we either have dinner with family or friends and then we generally go to a friends’ house to drink, play bingo or dance. On television there will for sure be good shows with belly dancers dancing for the New Year. Taksim Square is also a popular spot for locals to celebrate the New Year. As with the rest of the world, we count back from 10 before midnight on New Year’s Eve.
In December we have Kurban (which means “to sacrifice”). On this religious holiday, people sacrifice animals for God. This is actually a symbol of helping the poor, because those meats are generally served to poor people. Sacrificing animals is one ritual that is very old but nowadays people prefer to donate that money to NGO’s instead. Kurban is full of dinners with different meat dishes to celebrate the end of a month’s period of fasting—a tradition practiced to make Muslims understand the situation of the poor when they cannot find food. On this holiday, a man walks the streets at 5 a.m. in the morning playing the drum to wake people up to eat, since they will be fasting all day from dawn to dusk. In the evening a cannonball is fired to give a sign to people that it is ok to stop fasting and eat. This is followed by prayer in the mosque. (Only men go to pray in the mosque for this religious ritual.)
After that we have a religious holiday called Ramadan, also known as “Candy Holiday”: Relatives visit each other to celebrate this religious day and the kids are given candies and a lot of wonderful desserts are served all day long. These religious holidays are almost always a means of coming together with your loved ones and family members—a tradition that is highly valued by the older generations in Turkey. To forget to visit your grandparents on a religious holiday and kiss their hands is almost unthinkable.
Kissing hands is a ritual done with the old people. You hold their hand, raise it to the air, bend over to kiss it and then put that hand to your forehead. The good thing is that when you kiss an old person’s hand, he/she generally gives you money. This is more commonly practiced with children who do not yet have a job!