This week sees two Turkish national holidays fall within a few days of each other leading to the announcement of an extended ten-day public holiday.

Let’s have a look at the significance of these holidays.

Zafer Bayramı (Victory Day)

Turkey annually celebrates Victory Day on August 30, commemorating the Turkish victory over Greek forces in the Battle of Dumlupınar (August 26-30, 1922). The outcome of the battle, which took place in Kütahya province in western Turkey, determined the overall outcome of the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923).

Although foreign forces left the country for good in the autumn of 1922, Turkish people accept August 30 as the date of the Turkish troops’ overall victory. Victory Day was first celebrated in only a few cities in Turkey – such as Ankara, Izmir and Afyonkarahisar – on August 30, 1923. It became a national holiday in 1935.

What Do People Do?

Many people in Turkey celebrate Victory Day by attending military parades, which take place in many big cities throughout the country.

Victory Day and the Feast of Sacrifice
Fethiye Municipality Band playing on Zafer Bayramı

Residents and shop owners decorate their windows with Turkish flags and images of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. State officials attend a ceremony at Atatürk’s Mausoleum in Ankara. All promotions in the Turkish Armed Forces take place on this day, and military schools hold annual graduation ceremonies on August 30.

Kurban Bayramı (Feast of Sacrifice)

Kurban bayramı, which occurs 70 days after the end of Ramazan, is a spectacular day of slaughter and feasting throughout the Muslim world. This year it begins on the evening of Thursday 31st August and ends on the evening of Monday 4th September.

The Feast of Sacrifice is one of the oldest Islamic holidays in Turkey. It commemorates the story (which appears in both the Koran and the Bible) of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) who showed obedience to God by agreeing to sacrifice his son. Once God (Allah) saw his faith he spared the boy and sent him a ram to be sacrificed instead.

Victory Day and the Feast of Sacrifice
Abraham ready to sacrifice his son

What do people do?

Traditionally, on the first day of the Feast, men of each family go to a mosque for a special morning prayer. Then the sacrifice ritual begins. Male, healthy, robust animals are preferred, not only because they’re bigger but also because it is considered great misfortune to kill a pregnant beast.

Victory Day and the Feast of Sacrifice
Male, healthy, robust animals are preferred

A halal prayer is recited before the animal is slaughtered and the atmosphere is solemn and respectful.

Families share about two-thirds of the animal’s meat with relatives and neighbours, and they traditionally give about one-third to the poor. This is one of the most important aspects of Kurban Bayramı and many poor families rely upon Kurban charity.

Victory Day and the Feast of Sacrifice

The first meal with the Kurban meat is cooked quickly and simply and eaten reverently.

Victory Day and the Feast of Sacrifice
The first Kurban meat is cooked quickly and eaten reverently

In recent years, some Turkish people started making donations to charitable organizations instead of sacrificing animals. Many people in Turkey take special care to help the poor during the Sacrifice Feast.

People usually wear their best clothes during the Sacrifice Feast. They welcome guests to their homes or visit relatives or friends during the holiday. Many people in Turkey reserve the first day of the feast for visiting their closest relatives. Young people greet their older relatives and neighbours by kissing their hand as a sign of respect.

If you find yourself in Turkey during Kurban Bayram, the chances are that you will not actually see the sacrifice of animals unless you head off to the rural areas.

How will it affect my holiday?

Banks will be closed during the holiday period but most shops and supermarkets will remain open.

Hotels and resorts will be busy with Turkish tourists taking advantage of the ten-day 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.

How do I greet my Turkish friends?

The official greeting is “İyi Bayramlar”

Sources – Time and Date/Wikipedia