Turkish Holidays, Festivals & Events
NEW YEAR’S DAY – January 1
As the Turkish are mainly Muslim, they do not actually celebrate Christmas, but they do take the New Year as an opportunity to give gifts in a similar fashion. New Year’s Eve is a big celebration, with most families gathering at home for a large celebratory dinner. Gathering in public (as is with most western countries for this event) is a relatively new thing that is mainly done in the bigger cities by the younger generations.
NEVRUZ – March
Nevruz is a lively, traditional festival that is the lunar equivalent of New Year’s Day to the Kurdish and Alevis Turks and marks the start of spring. Depending on which area of Turkey you are staying in, the festival falls on different days throughout the month. The occasion is celebrated by the majority of villagers (people who choose not to celebrate in festivities are frowned upon). While the celebrations differ slightly between regions, they tend to involve people sharing food and embark on rituals to grant them good luck for the coming year.
ANZAC DAY – April 25
April 25 marks the date that the allied forces landed on the beaches of the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915 during WWI, and a bloody battle ensued. Thousands of lives of New Zealand, Australian, English, Canadian and Turkish soldiers were lost in what was actually a pointless battle. Every year celebrations are held at the site, with the Turks openly welcoming tourists from these countries to both mourn the soldiers that gave their lives and also to celebrate their subsequent freedom. Anzac day is also said to mark the start of the tourist season for the country.
KIRKPINAR OIL WRESTLING COMPETITION – June
Every June, around a thousand men strip down to their leather trousers and get greased up for the Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling competition. Held in a massive field near Edirne for three days, the men battle it out in the national tournament that caters to all ages from school age through to masters. Also known as ‘Forty Springs’, the competition originated in 1640, with wrestling styles being adopted from the Janissaries (the Imperial Sultan’s body guards), and the emphasis is placed more on endurance rather than skill. The eventual winner is usually crowned by the President of Turkey.
SEKER BAYRAMI – Date changes annually
Seker Bayrami is a three day national holiday that follows Ramazan (the Islamic holy month where participants concentrate on fasting, prayer and celebrations). This festival starts when the new moon rises at the end of Ramazan (or Ramadan as we know it), and is considered a very important time for families, with children being given sweets – hence the name ‘seker’ which means candy in Turkish. Many Turks also take this holiday as an opportunity to have a trip away, so if you are planning on travelling, be sure to book ahead (both accommodation and transport) so that you aren’t caught short.