Turkey knows how to get down and party. How do we know? We just reviewed all the holidays and festivals the country will be celebrating in 2015. Between religious festivities and nation-wide celebrations, the fun will be flowing year-round in Turkey. If you like to party, like to travel and are interested in visiting Turkey, read through our list to see if anything peaks your interest. Then, plan accordingly, and before you know it, you’ll be having a grand old time in Turkey. Before you book tickets around a festival, be sure to double check the dates with a local tourism office.
The most important religious festival in Turkey is Ramadan, or Ramazan in Turkish. It is the Muslim month of daylight during which followers of the religion abstain from food, water, tobacco and sexual relations. Otherwise, life carries on as normal during Ramadan, despite the fact that half the population is fasting from sunrise to sunset. Keep in mind, if you are travelling during this time, many restaurants will close for the duration of the observance or severely curtail their menus. Then, immediately after dark there’s an orgy of eating, called the iftar yemeği by the famished, and restaurants sell out of everything within an hour of sunset. The Koran allows pregnant and nursing mothers, the infirm and travellers to be excused from obligatory fasting, so if you are travelling through the country, you will still be able to eat normally without offending any locals.
The aptly named “Sugar Holiday” is a three day festival that immediately follows Ramazan. It is generally celebrated by throwing massive family reunions. Kids love this holiday too as it involves giving them presents and sweets to enjoy after a long month of fasting.
The four-day Kurban Bayramı, or “Festival of the Sacrifice”, commemorates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to show his faithfulness to Allah. The festival runs a full 4.5 days, and the festival’s eve, called arife, is the half-day when everyone preps for the following four days of fun and festivities. The festival is really about charity and community. Family and friends play a major part in the celebrations, and kids are given the opportunity to bond with their older relatives.
The biggest way to celebrate Kurban Bayrami is to sacrifice a goat or sometimes even a bull or camel. The meat of the animal is then given to the poor and shared among family members and neighbours.
From camel wrestling to dance festivals, Turkey has no shortage of folkloric traditions. Each year, a mix of modern and traditional festivals fill the social calendars that draw all sorts of talent from around the world.
The Istanbul International Film Festival will run from April 4th through the 19th in 2015. The Film Festival was first presented as a film week in the summer of 1982, within the framework of the Istanbul Festival. In 1983 under the title “International Istanbul Film Days”, 36 films were shown in one month. From there, the festival has grown in size and acclaim. The Festival, whose aim is “to encourage the development of cinema in Turkey, to help Turkish cinema attain international recognition and to promote films of quality in the Turkish market”, has also introduced international institutions and organizations like EURIMAGES to the Turkish market.
Every year in mid-January there is the annual Camel Wrestling Championship held in Selcuk in Turkey. The event puts together two male camels with a female camel in heat nearby. The camels fight it out for the female, leaning on each other to push the other one down. This Festival is most common in the Aegean region of Turkey, but is also found in the Marmara and Mediterranean regions. There are an estimated 1200 camel wrestlers (Tulu) in Turkey, bred specially for these competitions.
In case you were wondering, a camel can win a wrestling match in three ways: by making the other camel retreat, scream, or fall down. The owner of a camel may also throw a rope into the field to declare a forfeit if he is concerned for the safety of his animal.
One of the best times to visit the Artvin province of Turkey is when the fantastic, multi-day Kafkasör festival takes place in a village above town. The highlight of this festival traditionally is the pitting of bulls against each other. Since the opening of the nearby frontier, however, the event has taken on a genuinely international character. In addition to the bullfighting, you will find wrestlers, vendors, jugglers, musicians and dancers from both Turkey and Georgia appearing among crowds of over fifty thousand. The festival is one of the last genuine folk fairs in the country, so if you can be there, go. It usually takes place late from May to early June.
During the Şeker and Kurban festivals, travel becomes difficult – reserve well in advance for a seat on any long-distance coach, train or plane. If you travel by road during national holiday periods, note that the already high traffic accident rate soars. Many shops and all banks, museums and government offices close during these periods (although corner grocery stores and most resort shops stay open), and when the festivals occur close to a national secular holiday, the whole country effectively grinds to a halt for up to a week.
Whether the festival is bizarre or beautiful, happy or honorific, if you want to participate in the celebrations, all you need to do is plan accordingly and get to Turkey for the festival of your choice. Protect your international holiday with cover from Cover-More and focus on what matters: enjoying your time in Turkey.
Image courtesy of Flickr user S Pakhrin