Sugar Festival and ATMs

  • Published
  • By Mehmet Birbiri
  • 39th Air Base Wing Host Nation Adviser
Question: Mehmet, can you tell us about the Sugar Festival?

Response: The Sugar Festival is celebrated by the Moslems at the end of Ramazan, the fasting month for Moslems. It lasts three and a half days. Sunday, is the last day of Ramazan and the Sugar Festival starts on that day at noon. 

Observations of the festival continue through Wednesday. 

It's a national religious holiday. Schools and government offices are closed during those days.   

It is traditional to wear new outfits during 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. The house is completely cleaned a few days before the festival. 

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. The 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 each other's festival. 

Children love those visits and would 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 there is no restriction 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 the deceased family members. The visits to graveyards start one day prior  to the festival and continue during the festival. 

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

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

Question: Mehmet, why is it called Sugar Festival?

Response: Well, that's a 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 why it is called "Sugar Festival,"  but I think since sweet things, candies, and chocolates are offered during the visits and it is wished to have sweet things during the festival and afterwards, it's called the "Sugar Festival." 

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

Question: 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?

Response: As I mentioned above the first day of the festival, Monday, is the most active day regarding celebrating the festival. All the shops will be closed on that day. Some shops will be open on the second day and so on.
The alley will be closed on the first day, Monday, but will be open for the remainder of "Sugar Festival." 

Question: 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?

Response: 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; that depends on the closeness between the elder and the child's family.

Question: Mehmet, how safe are ATMs off base?

Response: Not very safe. Planting a bomb and exploding ATM machines in big cities is a common practice for terrorists. Terrorists choose ATM machines for their activities, because they find a kind of privacy while planting their bomb in the booths. 

Terrorists try to place those bombs mostly in crowded areas so that they can injure, sometimes kill, more people and be heard more widely. 

Last August a similar bomb exploded in an ATM machine in Adana. While police were making checks and investigations about the explosion a second explosion happened, 15 minutes after the first one, where the curious and nearby people stand and watch the police. The second explosions injured 11 people. Several people have been killed in different ATM explosions in Turkey. 

Therefore, I highly recommend not using off base ATMs unless you have no other option and to be very careful while using ATM machines.