Ask Mehmet: Kandil

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Editor's Note: 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@us.af.mil.

Question: Mehmet, last Thursday evening, June 12, I was driving by the Sabanci Mosque. I noticed that the mosque was illuminated very nicely and it was so crowded that surprised me to see that many people at that time of the evening in the mosque. Was there something special or what?

You are right, there was a special celebration called Kandil held last Thursday. The Kandil celebration was aired by Turkish Radio Television live throughout the country. The Chief of Religion Affairs of Turkey was among the attendants at the Adana Sabanci Mosque.

It is necessary to add that Turks have a personal way of following Islam. A great number of Muslim Turks will partake in an alcoholic beverage, smoke cigarettes and/or indulge in other vices. These activities are avoided during religious occasions such as Ramazan (Ramadan) or the Kandil.

Mosque festivals are called Kandil, which means candle. It is referred as this because all the mosques are illuminated and those are the nights on which Muslims pray for forgiveness and wish to see the right way of things to be done according to their religion.

The story of Kandil

The five holy evenings on the Muslim calendar are called Kandil. During the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Selim II, of 16th, century lit candles on the minarets (towers) of the mosques in order to announce these holy nights to the public. Since this calendar is calculated with the revolution of the moon around the earth, the dates of the Kandils differ every year. Religious dates are determined by a lunar calendar. Therefore, Muslim holidays are observed 10 to 11 days earlier every year. There are five Kandils in a year and there is only one Kandil left to be observed for this year.

Mevlid Kandili - The birth of Prophet Mohammad (Jan. 12)
Regaip Kandili - The beginning of the pregnancy of Prophet Mohammad's mother (May 1)
Mirac Kandili - Prophet Mohammad's rising to sky (May 25)
Berat Kandili - The forgiveness of the sins (June 12)
Kadir Gecesi - The Koran's (Muslims holy book) first appearance to Prophet Mohammad (July 23)

These nights Muslims usually worship and sing Mevlit, a poem written for the birth of Mohammad. Kandils were once holy days when young members visited the older members of the family, however today the Kandil greetings are made with phone calls. Some restaurants serving alcoholic beverages may be closed at Kandils.

Most of the pastry shops and bakery sell Kandil Simidi (special small crispy bread ring strewn with or without sesame seeds). In some apartments the neighbors hand out helva (a special Turkish dessert made of semolina or flour) or Lokma Tatlisi (again a special dessert made of fried dough with syrup).

Visitors of Turkey should be mindful of these holidays and should expect increased traffic around mosques and could notice some restaurants are closed during these holy days. Therefore, plan ahead and get acquainted with the culture and customs of your host nation, it could enrich your time here in Turkey.