There is a conservative side in all people. As time goes by, they always remember the past as good and miss the old in everything. That's why you always hear people ask, "Where are those old holidays?" In the past, life might have been easier. Relationships might have been better. On a street or in a neighborhood, everyone used to know each other, and they would visit each other frequently, cheer up together and help each other out in distress. Now, conditions have changed as modernization has changed our lives. In today's mega-sites and buildings with hundreds of apartments, nobody knows anyone.
Every revolution tries to replace its national days with religious holidays. In fact, Oct. 29, when the republic was proclaimed in Ankara, it was declared an official holiday. There were high-level bureaucrats who went to visit their neighbors that day wearing suits and hats. However, people disregarded them.
Days of joy
Religious holidays are joyous days during which religion recommends you have fun, cheer up, dress nicely and eat good food. Eastern people prefer to experience joy and sorrow together. Having fun alone, feeling sorry for yourself and saying "leave me alone" is only seen in American movies.
Religious holidays are the means of gathering. They are colorful days that save you from monotony. When people see the person they love, they cheer up. This is a psychological situation. Meeting with relatives is almost spiritual therapy. Even if they are not on the same social level, they are pleased to see their relatives. The sense of tolerance increases, and they welcome everything in a wider perspective.
Nowadays, people want to evaluate religious holidays by going on a vacation. Family ties are not as strong as they used to be. Work life is hard. Time that people want to spare for themselves and their family is running out. It is only possible to take a break from our busy lives with these holidays. Maybe that's why those who want to go on vacation during religious holidays should be excused.
Globalization has transformed the world into a small village. People unavoidably resist protecting their values and at least their mental health. They try to be more involved with relatives, research their family tree, return to where they were born and raised and repair their grandparents' house.
The past is not found again. The desire to meet, have fun, cheer and forget the pursuit of life, which is what makes a religious holiday, continues since they keep societies alive.
Two religious holidays
Just like every religion, there are two religious holidays in Islam. One of them is the Ramadan holiday, "Eid al-Fitr." It starts right after Ramadan, which is the fasting month, and lasts for three days. "Fitr" means "to fast" in Arabic. Since eating dessert on this occasion is the recommendation of Prophet Muhammad, Turks also call this holiday "Şeker Bayramı" (The Candy Holiday). Because eating sweet things before starting the holiday was the tradition of the holy prophet.
The second religious holiday in Islam is the feast of the sacrifice ritual. It is called "Eid al-Adha." "Adha" means "sacrifice" in Arabic. It starts 70 days after Eid al-Fitr and lasts four days. Pilgrimage is also completed during these days.
There were two festivals in which the people of Medina played and enjoyed themselves during Prophet Muhammed's "Hijrah" from Mecca to Medina in 622.
Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said, "Allah replaced these two festivals with two better days: These are 'Eid al-Fitr' and 'Eid al-Adha.'"
People of Medina loved to have fun. In Medina, holidays were celebrated with joy. Prophet Muhammad's wife Aisha described a holiday that she had as a youth, "On an eid day, the Habesha came to the courtyard of the mosque and played a spear game. The messenger of God asked for me. I watched it with my heart."
On a holiday, when Caliph Abu Bakr went to see his daughter Aisha, he saw two handmaidens playing tambourine and singing. When he condemned them for singing at the Prophet's house, the Messenger of Allah said, "Leave them be Abu Bakr! These are the days of holiday!"
It is even forbidden to fast during the holidays.
Muslims performing eid prayers in mosque on the first day of Ramadan holiday. (Photo by Murat Şengül)
On both holidays, there is a special type of worship that men perform after sunrise, which are called eid prayers. This prayer is performed in the mosque with a congregation. Even people who don't regularly pray come to this prayer and take their children. Many of those people remember the eid prayers they attended in their childhood and want their kids to experience it as well. It is perhaps their only contact with religion. While men are in the mosque, the women prepare breakfast at home.
During religious holidays, elders are visited on the first day.
Family members come together at an elder's house for breakfast or dinner. Cemeteries are visited. In Ottoman cities, there was an awliya (a spiritually enlightened person) that every neighborhood was connected to. People went there when they were in distress and felt relieved. These tombs, such as Eyüp Sultan in Istanbul, were also visited during the holidays. Even today, this tradition continues.
Fancy holiday ram
In Turkish culture, there is a dessert for every special day. It is walnut baklava for religious holidays.
Arabs prepare baklava with pistachios and put cream on it. Sweets such as sugar candy, Turkish delight and almond paste are purchased beforehand for the holidays. Varieties of jam are served to guests with small spoons on a fancy tray.
Later, with candy having its presence increase in the market, this tradition was abandoned. Coffee and water are served to guests, followed by dessert. Ayran, a traditional drink made of yogurt and water, accompanies dessert in some places. Dessert cuts off a person's appetite, while ayran whets the appetite.Giving presents during holidays is also customary. In the past, food or a tray of baklava was sent to the poor before the festival. During Eid al-Adha, following an engagement, it is customary to send a fancy and hennaed ram decorated with a gold coin on its horn to the family of the bride.
In particular, children are presented with gifts during the holidays. In the past, it was customary to give a handkerchief and a pair of socks. Since it was not considered pleasant to directly hand over money, money was attached to the edge of an handkerchief or in a sock, and given to the kids. During religious holidays, children are held in high esteem taken to an amusement park called a "the best place for holiday."