Ask Mehmet: Sugar Festival

  • Published
  • By Mehmet Birbiri
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Sept. 8 marks the beginning of the three-and-a-half day Sugar Festival, or Bayram, celebrated by Muslims in Turkey.

The Sugar Festival is celebrated by the Muslims and begins at noon on the last day of Ramazan, the month-long fasting period for Muslims.

Observations of the festival continue through Sept. 11.

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

It is traditional to wear new outfits during the 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 also completely cleaned several days before the festival.

The first day is the most important. Everybody wakes up early and men go to a 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. Other relatives, neighbors and friends are also visited. Traffic is quite busy on the first day of the festival due to the visits.

Bayram visits are kept very short, most lasting 10 to 15 minutes. Candies, chocolates, Turkish coffee or cold beverages are commonly offered to the 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.
It's traditional for elders to give pocket money to the children. Children can easily collect pocket money for one month, but the best part for them is parents don't typically restrict how they spend this money. 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. The visits start the day before the festival and continue throughout the festival.

If you visit your Turkish friends during the festival, a box of candy or chocolate would be the most appropriate thing to take. The phrase for celebrating your Turkish friends festival 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 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.

Mehmet, why is it called Sugar Festival?

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 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 in Turkish is "seker"and Sugar Festival is "Seker Bayrami."

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

As I mentioned above, the first day of the festival, Sept. 8, is the most active day of the festival. All the shops will be closed on that day although some shops will be open after the first day.

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 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 toward them.

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