Ask Mehmet: Sugar Festival 101

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, TURKEY -- Ask Mehmet is a forum for people to ask questions of the local area, as well as the outer confines of the region and the country as a whole. To submit a question, send an e-mail with the subject "Ask Mehmet" to 39abw.pa@incirlik.af.mil. Then, look for an answer to the question on the 39th Air Base Wing's official website at www.incirlik.af.mil and Incirlik Air Base's Facebook page.

Question:
Mehmet, can you tell us about the Sugar Festival?

Answer:
The Sugar Festival or Bayram is national religious holiday in Turkey celebrated at the end of Ramadan. It lasts three and a half days. Aug. 18 is the last day of Ramadan and the first day of the Sugar Festival, which continues through Aug. 21. Schools and government offices are closed during these days.

It is traditional to wear new outfits during the festival, so many parents will shop during this time. Many children are excited about wearing their new clothing on the first day of the festival. Homes are also completely cleaned a few days before the festival.

The first day is the most important. Everyone wakes up early, and men go to the mosque for the special Bayram prayer.

After returning from the mosque, all family members dress nicely, mostly with new clothes, and begin another important tradition; Bayram visits.

Children visit their grandparents and older relatives first, then neighbors and friends. Due to those visits, the traffic is quite busy on the first day of the festival.

Bayram visits are kept very short, usually 10 to 15 minutes. Candies, chocolates, Turkish coffee or cold beverages are usually offered to visitors. People who cannot visit their friends and family members in other towns and cities make phone calls or send cards celebrating each other's festival.

Children love those visits and like to visit as many elders as they can, because it's traditional that elders give pocket money to the children.

Children can easily collect pocket money for one month. But the best part for them is that there is no restriction how much they spend and how they spend it, therefore, amusement parks and carnivals are set up in almost every town during the festival.

It's also not uncommon for Kapicis, who are the doormen at apartment buildings, trash collectors and Ramazan drummers to knock on doors expecting gifts or tips during the festival.

Another tradition practiced during the festival is visiting the graves of deceased family members. The visits to graveyards start one day prior to the festival and continue throughout its duration.

If you visit your Turkish friends during sugar festival, a box of candy or chocolate would be the most appropriate to take. The phrase for celebrating your Turkish friend's festival is "Iyi bayramlar" (ee-yee by-rahm-lahr) which means "I wish you a happy festival."

Boys born during the festival are usually given the name Bayram, and if they are born anytime during the holy month, they are named Ramazan.

Question:
Mehmet, why is it called Sugar Festival?

Answer:
Well, that's good question. Another name for that festival is "Ramazan Bayrami." In Arabic it is called Id-ul Fitr. To tell you the truth, I really don't know how it got its name, but I think since sweet things, candies and chocolates are offered during the festival; it's called the Sugar Festival. Sugar translates to seker in Turkish, and the Sugar Festival is called Seker Bayrami as well.

Question:
Mehmet, are the shops going to be open during the festival? Will shops in Turkey, including the alley, be open during the Sugar festival?

Answer:
As I mentioned above, the first day of the festival, Aug.19, is the most active day of the festival. All the shops will be closed on that day. Some shops will be open on the second day and on.

The alley will be closed Aug. 19, but will be open for the rest of the days.