Ask Mehmet - Can you tell us about the Sugar Festival?

Children bounce and play in blow up castle during a Children’s Day Festival April 21, 2013, at Arkadas Park, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The event was hosted by the Turkish air force 10th Tanker Base Command and was open to all members of Team Incirlik. The event featured activity booths, games and performances designed to honor children and celebrate cultures coming together. In 1979, the United Nation’s Year of the Child, the Turkish government proposed April 23 be declared a holiday for children of the world. That same year, Turkey began inviting children from every country to participate in Children’s Day festivities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Summers Jr./Released)

Turkish children play in an inflatable castle April 21, 2013, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Turkish children are known to use pocket change received during the Sugar Festival from family and friends on entertainment such as this and other amusement park rides. The Sugar Festival, or Seker Bayrami, is celebrated by Muslims at the end of Ramadan, the fasting month for Muslims. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eric Summers Jr.)

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. 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.

The Sugar Festival is celebrated by Muslims at the end of Ramazan, the fasting month for Muslims. The Sugar Festival begins on the final day of Ramazan at noon and lasts three and a half days.

Because it is a national religious holiday, schools and government offices are closed during those days.

It is traditional to wear new outfits during the Bayram (meaning festival), so parents get new clothes for their children. Many children are excited about wearing their new clothing on the first day of the festival. Also, homes are completely cleaned a few days before the holiday.

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

After returning from the mosque, all the family members dress up nicely, mostly with new clothes, and another important tradition is practiced: Bayram visits.

Young people visit their elders first. Then other relatives, neighbors and friends are also visited. Due to those visits the traffic is quite busy on the first day of the festival.

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

Children love these visits and would like to visit as many people as they can, because it's traditional to give pocket money to the children.

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

Kapicis (doormen at apartment buildings), trash collectors and Ramazan drummers knock on doors expecting gifts or tips.

Another tradition practiced during the festival is visiting the graves of deceased family members. Visits to graveyards start one day prior to the festival and continue throughout the holiday.

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

Here is another tradition observed by the Turks during the celebration - boys born during the festival are often given the name of "Bayram." Just like giving the name of "Ramazan" if they are born in the month of Ramazan.

Mehmet, why is it called Sugar Festival?

Well, that's a good question. Another name for the festival is "Ramazan Bayrami." In Arabic it is called "Id-ul Fitr." To tell you the truth, I really don't know why it is called "Sugar Festival," but I think since sweet things, candies, candies and chocolates are offered during the visits and it is wished to have sweet things during the holiday and afterwards it's called the "Sugar Festival."

"Seker" means sugar in Turkish and Sugar Festival is called "Seker Bayrami" as well.

Mehmet, are the shops going to be open during the festival? I especially want to know if the shops at the alley will be open during the Sugar festival?

As I mentioned above the first day of the festival, Aug. 8, is the most active day regarding celebrating the holiday. All the shops will be closed on that day. Some shops will open on the second day and following.

The alley will be closed on the first day, Wednesday, Aug. 8, but will be open for the rest of holiday.

Mehmet, we visited a Turkish friend's house the other day. The children of the family came and kissed the hand of my wife and I. That was neat. But more interesting than that, they put our hands on their foreheads after kissing. Why? What does that mean?

That's another Turkish tradition. By kissing your hands, they show their respect for you. And by putting your hands on their foreheads they mean that they respect you so much that you have a place on top of their heads.

I don't know what you did, but you were supposed to kiss the kids on their cheeks. That's how we respond to the ones who kiss and put their hands on their foreheads. That's a sign of our love and sympathy towards them.

The children are given pocket money by elders after that kissing ritual. If you ask me how much money should be given, I would say that depends on the closeness between the elder and the children/child's family.