Quite a few weeks ago now, most of the country celebrated Kurban Bayramı, which is the same as the holiday Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice). The holiday coincides with the end of the Hajj (which is also the end of the Muslim lunar calendrical year), and lasts five days.
For this holiday, we got school off and many students took advantage of the time to travel. Actually, though many people celebrate the holiday in a more traditional manner by sacrificing a sheep and having a full family feast, many Turks use the time to go traveling as well. I wasn’t really shocked to learn that this is one of the highest times for tourism in all of Turkey, other than summer of course. It’s not that shocking now that I think of it, for Turkey is the country where East and West meet, where tradition meets innovation. It’s one of those overly cliché sayings that irritate me because they’re just so true.
Back to the holiday, though (I’ll save that cliché for another post): There are some traditions that I found quite interesting. When the lamb is slaughtered, 1/3 or the meat is to be cooked immediately, 1/3 is to be distributed to the poor, and 1/3 is to be distributed between friends and family. Another tradition is for children to kiss their elders’ hands and praise them to their (the children’s own) foreheads, and then in return the grandparents would give the children money wrapped in a handkerchief as a gift. Many of these traditions are fading away, however, and more and more the holiday has become an excuse to travel and spend time with family.
It’s kind of sad that some of these traditions are becoming obsolete, but it’s also interesting how in Turkey it has become more like holidays are in America. I guess it’s not so much that they’re disappearing, but rather that the holiday is changing in its meaning. One of my friends told me that their family gives all of the meat to the poor, because they have enough food as is so they decided it was a good excuse (I know it’s sad to need one but we all do the same) to be especially charitable. For many, the holiday moved away from any specific religious significance and became more important as a time to take a break from life and spend time with family.
And it’s a most well-deserved break, on that note, since everything picks up in this country once it ends. I wonder if it’s more of a modern innovation to have everything for work and school pick up after Bayram, or if it’s an old tradition. All that I know is there is a saying around here that goes, “Bayram’dan sonra…” which means, “After Bayram…” Basically, what everyone means by saying this is that everything picks up after Bayram, as if the city suddenly awakens. Especially for school though, the semester becomes a whirlwind of projects, midterms, papers, projects, papers, and finals once Bayram ends.
My advice to anyone studying in Turkey:
Do indeed take advantage of the wonderful opportunity that Kurban Bayramı provides to travel and explore the country or neighboring countries; however, give yourself a day or two at the end to organize your life a bit and prepare for the work that will be thrown at you starting the very next week. It’s kind of like that professor who tells you that you have no class the week of Little 5, but then you have an 18-page report due the Monday after.