Ramadan Bayram, also known as Eid al-Fitr, which Turks often refer to as Şeker Bayramı, or the holiday of sweets, is upon us. The Ramadan holiday officially begins today and runs through Friday, June 6. Ramadan Bayram is a celebration of the end of a trying month of fasting for the Holy Month of Ramadan.
One of the longest and most important religious holidays in Turkey, this is a time of celebrating a month of fasting from dawn to dusk and enjoying feasting with family and friends. The official holiday began with the "arefe," meaning the eve, which was yesterday with banks and government buildings only operating half day.
Those who can, tend to combine the weekend prior and following to extend their time off to a full nine days, which means that for some the holiday has already begun.
Offering candy to guests is one of the traditions of Eid al-Fitr in Turkey.
Traditionally referred to as Şeker Bayramı, which means the holiday or "feast" of treats, in reference to the steadfast tradition of offering candy or sweets to visitors. Similar to Halloween, children may take this opportunity to knock on the doors of their neighbors, who will then offer them candy or chocolates. If you want to be prepared, then just head to any supermarket as they will have giant displays of single-wrap candies on offer that are perfect for giving away.
The focus of this eid is visiting friends and family to congratulate and celebrate the passing month of fasting. On the eve and leading up to the first day of the eid, households will do a big "spring clean" and people tend to purchase new clothes or clothing as gifts for the kids so they can dress up nicely during the eid. This is because the biggest tradition during this eid is paying visits to family members, loved ones and close friends. The rule of thumb is that the more senior you are in the family, the less you have to travel. In other words, on the first day of the eid, family members tend to visit their oldest and closest relatives first. The age hierarchy diminishes as the days pass and the second and third day of the eid is spent visiting other extended relatives and friends.
The bayram greeting is also an integral part of the experience and no one, regardless of the situation, refrains from offering this special wish. All grudges are forgotten and everyone will be wishing one another a "İyi bayramlar," which is what the Turks say as they shake hands or kiss on both cheeks.
The exception being of course if you are in the presence of an older individual, in which case, regardless of gender, you take the person's hand in yours and kiss it and then gently lower your forehead onto it. This is a gesture of respect that should be reserved only for the truly older and deserving. You do not want to go kissing the hands of those that are too young, otherwise, you may hurt some feelings.
HEADING TO THE SOUTH
To facilitate this custom of paying visits to family members, throughout the country, for the most part, all intercity transportation will be free of charge for the eid. Meanwhile, due to this year's Ramadan falling during the summer season, many Turks are taking the opportunity of having time off to go on vacation. What this means is that, while transportation out of the major metropolises and to vacation destinations have long been booked, for fellow foreigners and those visiting Turkey, this can be a unique opportunity to experience much less traffic within Istanbul and Turkey's other major cities. Museums and most shops will return to operation on the second day of the holiday, which is this Wednesday, meaning that for the remainder of the week cities will be less crowded and easier to navigate.
This is not the case in Turkey's summer hot spots however as the masses will be embarking upon holiday towns in Bodrum, İzmir, Fethiye and Antalya. Hotels will have been booked months in ahead and Turkey's most popular performers will be taking the stage for blowout concerts in destinations throughout the south coast. Another point to keep in mind is that over the weekend these holiday goers will be returning home and thus even intercity highways are expected to be crowded.
Eid al-Fitr is a time of celebrating the hard work of a month of daylight fasting and the focus of the eid is on feasting, family and compassion. Keep this spirit in mind throughout this special time and do as the Turkish saying goes "Tatlı yiyelim, tatlı konuşalım," which means, "Let's eat sweet and talk sweet!"