Kurban Bayram, the Feast of Sacrifice, honours the willingness of Abraham (İbrahim) to sacrifice his young first-born son Ishmael (İşmail) as an act of submission to God’s (Allah) command, before God then intervened to provide Abraham with a lamb to sacrifice instead.

Abraham ready to sacrifice his son Ishmael

For Muslims it is customary for goats or sheep to be ritually slaughtered but sometimes it can be a ram or billy goat.

Lambs must be at least six months old before they are slaughtered, sheep and goats need to be a year old, cattle and oxen a minimum of two years, and camels a full five years old before they are sacrificed.

Kurban Bayram - The Feast of Sacrifice

These larger animals represent the sacrifice for up to seven people.

When will Kurban Bayram be this year?

In the lunar-based Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah and lasts for four days. Each year it falls approximately 10 days earlier than the previous year.

Kurban Bayram message
Kurban Bayram message

This year (2016) Kurban bayram will begin with ‘Arife’ (preparation day) on the afternoon of Sunday 11th September.

The first day of Bayram is Monday 12th September and the festival continues for four days until the evening of Thursday 15th September.

Changing attitudes

Campaigns encouraging Turks to donate money to a school or charity, rather than sacrificing an animal, have become much more evident in in recent years.

This, together with increasing urbanization and the necessity of using car parks or other open spaces for communal slaughter (all of which have become subject to bureaucracy ), are changing the way many now observe this festival.

Even so, villages and small towns in Turkey, which still have their farms and gardens, continue to make the sacrifice a family affair.

Kurban Bayram in Fethiye

Most animals will be slaughtered on the first full day of the holiday.

Fethiye's goat herds
Fethiye’s goat herds

Even people who generally don’t go to the mosque, or sacrifice animals, often go to the mosque to attend the morning prayers on the first day of Bayram.

Fethiye Belediye will set up a temporary abattoir, in previous years this is on the site of the Tuesday market, where those wishing to sacrifice can take their animals to have them professionally slaughtered. A small charge of is levied for smaller animals and rising for larger beasts such as cattle. Lorries also collect the skins of the sacrificed animals.

Some of the meat is cooked up very quickly and eaten reverently.

Kurban Bayram - The Feast of Sacrifice

No alcohol is consumed with this meat.

It is also a time when friends and families get together in a similar way that Christians do over the Christmas period. Sweets, baklava, chocolate and other goodies are shared and enjoyed also.

If you have Turkish neighbours where you are staying they will positively welcome you into their homes over the Bayram. Take up the offer and learn about the culture.

Will it affect my holiday?

Maybe a little as banks will be closed during the holiday period but most shops and supermarkets will remain open – see notices for any adjusted opening times.

Hotels and resorts will be busy with Turkish tourists taking advantage of the long public holiday.

If you plan to travel during the lead up or end of the holiday period public transport will be very busy so book ahead if you want to guarantee a seat on long distance bus or internal flights.

Is There a Holiday Greeting?

Yes, it is “Iyi Bayramlar!”

What is the Feast of the Sacrifice?

An important story for all the Abrahamic religions
An important story for all the Abrahamic religions

For practicing Muslims, the Feast of the Sacrifice is seen as an essential tenant of faith. A four-day festival, which takes place 70 days after the fasting month of Ramadan, occurs during the 12th month of the Islamic year.

Kurban Bayram immediately follows the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) and is a time for prayer and celebration.

In Islam it is a holy feast where a cloven-hoofed animal is ritually slaughtered in remembrance of İbrahim and for the forgiveness of sins.

The Feast of the Sacrifice is the re-enactment of İbrahim’s (Abraham) willingness to sacrifice his son İsmail (Isaac) to Allah (God). Seeing his obedience, God substituted a ram for İbrahim to sacrifice instead of his son.

After the animal has had its throat cut and the blood has drained away, the meat is cut and then shared – one third saved for the household, one third shared between friends and neighbours and the final third given to the poor.

The story is told in the Bible and is significant for the world’s three major Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Kurban Bayramı 4 - 2013