Turkey is set to mark its second Ramadan Bayram, also known as Eid al-Fitr, under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed thousands of lives since March 2020. A 17-day full lockdown, set to end May 17, will be in place throughout the Islamic holiday, which is normally an occasion of high mobility.
The fasting month of Ramadan already suffered from the absence of the adored tradition of mass iftar (fast-breaking) dinners that were banned due to infection risk. But for the faithful, it will end with one inseparable part of the month to be held, somewhat properly.
Muslims are expected to flock to mosques for bayram prayers in the early hours of the first day of the holiday. Mosques will be open while most places were closed down during the lockdown, but the prayers will likely be devoid of the spirit of unity of the bayram. Everyone is required to bring their own prayer mat or whatever they have and most people will pray outside the mosque while adhering to social distancing. People are also required to wear protective masks while bayram greetings usually reserved for end of prayers will be simple nods and good wishes, instead of handshakes and hugs for the faithful.
The Ramadan spirit prevailed, but it was distant. Thousands of people left for vacation resort towns, which offer a secluded getaway weeks before the start of the bayram, both to spend the holiday and use the opportunity of lockdown to travel somewhere less risky than big cities. Lockdown meant a ban on intercity travel and people who traditionally visit their relatives, parents or children on the occasion were forced to travel two weeks before bayram. Though they were able to visit their relatives and spend the holiday with them, their gatherings will be limited due to strict social distancing rules enforced across the country. Others unable to leave before the start of lockdown will rely on video messaging apps instead of visits to exchange bayram greetings with their loved ones.
The pandemic was also a disappointment for children, who were not allowed to go out. Bayram, which is informally known as the "Festival of Sweets" for children who go door-to-door to collect sweets or cash in a tradition similar to Halloween, will be unlike others for them. The tradition of kissing the hands of the elderly as a sign of respect and a bayram greeting will have to be scrapped.
Turkey, like the majority of the global Muslim community whose population amounts to about 1.8 billion, spent the month of fasting under the coronavirus measures too. The nightly Tarawih, a collective prayer, was barred as mosques were closed due to the pandemic.
One tradition that managed to escape the clutches of the pandemic is the bayram's original name: fitr. Fitr, a type of almsgiving specific to Ramadan and usually observed before the bayram, was a special occasion this year. As the pandemic put many out of business and took a harsh toll on the impoverished, it came as a relief for millions. Through charities, fitr was distributed to the poor across the country while nongovernmental organizations continued delivering aid throughout Ramadan and the bayram.
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