Friday, August 9, 2013


Bayramınız Kutlu!! Happy Holidays!
Today is the second day of Şeker Bayramı. Şeker Bayramı, otherwise known as “Sugar Feast,” “Feast of the Breaking of the Fast,” or by its Arabic name Eid- ul Fitr, is the celebration of the end of Ramadan and the thirty days of fasting. It is a three-day holiday that –this year- started yesterday, Thursday, August 8th.
Symbol of Virgin Mary found at The
House of Virgen Mary near Ephesus, Turkey. 
Growing up Catholic and in Latin American where Roman Catholics are a clear majority, I was not widely exposed to other religions nor was it easy for me to meet people from different religious backgrounds, especially one as unique and geographically orientated as Islam. Hence, throughout my time in Turkey I have been intrigued by the Islamic faith, its beliefs and traditions. Fortunately for me, I spent the beginning of this holiday with a Turkish young woman who, besides being our tour guide and educating the GloSchos about the wonders of Ephesus, was nice enough to talk to me about how Şeker Bayramı is celebrated in Turkey.
As I mentioned previously, Şeker Bayramı is a three-day holiday celebrating the end of fasting. For these three days, schools, government offices, banks and private businesses are closed (the reason why the GloSchos got to go to Pamukkale and Ephesus). During the festivities, sweets and desserts are prepared and cherished, and in order to make these mouth-watering, lovely pieces of sugary heaven there is a day called Arife where women go to the market and go shopping in order to buy everything needed for the feast. Once the official holiday begins, Turkish people attend prayer services, clean their houses, dress up and meet with their families in order to feast and pray with gratitude.
Pretty flowers!
Another important tradition of Şeker Bayramı is visiting relatives and friends. Many people travel from the big cities to the countryside to visit their family. This means that there is more traffic and airports are more crowded on the days leading up to the first day of the holiday, which is considered to be the most important day out of the three. The Global Scholars experienced how crowded airports get before the Sugar Feast when we were at the airport on our way to Izmir. Security lines were very long and people were hurried trying to get to their destination before the first day of the holiday. In addition to traveling long distances to meet up with their relatives, Turks also go to the graveyard and pay their respects to the loves one who passed away. They take flowers and other ornaments, sometimes even food. Driving on the highway from Ephesus to the airport, I could see the graveyards along the highway and how decorated they were thanks to the flowers that relatives took for the Şeker Bayramı. The tour guide also taught me how important it is to honor the elderly during these days. It is common for younger generations to visit the older ones and greet them in a special way. Young people have to kiss their elders on the right hand and then place it on their forehead as a sign of respect.
One of the most peculiar things I learned from my conversation with the tour guide was how in some very traditional Turkish neighborhoods, children go from house to house wishing everyone a “happy bayram.” In return, children get candy. After hearing this, I was instantly reminded of Halloween.
Being in Turkey for three weeks has definitely helped me open my mind to new religions and cultures. I am able to see things under a different light, or at least think outside my Catholic box. I look forward to go out into the city today and witness the second day of celebration in Istanbul.   
Sunset at Kusadasi

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