Sweet celebration: Ramazan Bayramı

bayram-sekeri

Turkey is about to become one of the sweetest countries in the world. Today Turks celebrate the first day of Ramazan or Şeker (Sugar) Bayramı (Holiday, Feast), a three days long religious holiday, which marks the end of the Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, with large amounts of şeker (sugar) and gratitute. With this occasion I wish all the Muslims ‘Ramazan Bayramınız Mübarek Olsun!’ (May your Bayram be blessed!)

The Arabic name of the Ramazan Bayramı is Eid ul-Fitr, Eid meaning “festivity” and Fitr “original nature”, referring to the restoration of one’s best human composition.[1] In Turkey the term bayram is used not only for religious feasts but also for official national celebrations, as for example Zafer Bayramı (Victory Day) or Cumhuriyet Bayramı (Republic Day). For a Romanian the term can be confusing given that in my language, bayram (written as bairam) means party, without any religious or national connotation. The term was borrowed from Ottoman Turkish and embraced only its most ‘visible’ meaning, given that Romania’s main regions Moldavia, Wallachia, and Transylvania were under Ottoman suzerainty.

Ramazan Bayramı is the celebration of family and respect, unity and generosity. Fasting is forbidden in the first day of Bayram, therefore breakfast is a must. The celebration includes the Bayram prayer and obligatory charity acts, as required by the Koran. People must help their needy, poor fellows,  while fundraising events are organized throughout the country. Moreover, the celebration cherishes the unity of the family. During Ramazan Bayramı people visit their older relatives, showing them respect by kissing their right hand and placing it on the forehead. Families come together and all the enmities are forgotten.

Therefore, Ramazan Bayramı is about charity, family and… sweets as its name, Şeker Bayramı (Sugar Feast) suggests us. Sugar Feast is the favourite celebration of children, who during the Bayram go door to door and wish people Ramazan Bayramınız mübarek olsun! (May your Bayram be blessed) or Mutlu Bayramlar! (Happy Bayram!) As a reward they receive many sweets, baklavas, Turkish delights and even small amounts of money. Even though the tradition of offering sweets might give us a hint regarding the origin of the name Şeker Bayramı,  according to Murat Bardakçı ‘şeker’ comes actually from ‘şükür’ which means ‘gratitude’, ‘praise’ in Turkish and the confusion occured because in Ottoman Turkish the two words were written in the same way[2]. Therefore Şeker Bayramı should have been Şükür Bayramı.

Even so we cannot deny the fact that Ramazan Bayramı is the sweetest Turkish celebration!

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Experiences, words…Ramadan. About. Ramazan ayınız mübarek olsun!

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The holy month of Ramadan is a period of fasting and spiritual reflection for Muslims. Ramadan corresponds to the ninth month of the lunar year and requires Muslims to refrain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset, to pray and to help those in need.

Two years ago I had the opportunity to be in Turkey during Ramadan. Even though I’m not a Muslim, and consequently, I wasn’t fasting, it was a valuable and interesting experience. The “noisy” city became suddenly quiet, the rush calmed down and the ezan (call to prayer) became the dominant voice of Eastern Turkey. During the day, although most of the people continued to respect their daily routine, the city was sleepy. People seemed weak, powerless, but in the same time serene and grateful. Most of the shops and restaurants were closed, the streets were deserted and burnt by the sun’s aggressive rays, while citizens withdrew to the coolness of their homes or workplaces. After the sunset, people gathered for iftar, a special Ramadan meal, and the city came to life. I’ve participated in iftar together with the personnel from the office where I was undertaking my internship and their families. It was nice to see how work collegues were acting like a big, united family. All over the city people came together and enjoyed the meal after sunset. I will never forget the night our neighbours, some cheerful women of all ages, invited me and my collegue to join them. They were chating and eating on the benches in front of our apartment building. Although we didn’t speak Turkish at the moment we accepted their invitation. It turned out to be a wonderful evening. I discovered that even conservative, veiled women can be very funny and crazy. We talked (how we could) about Tarkan, found out that they like Brad Pitt, ate sarma (grape leaves filled with meat), baklava and pistachio, and made pictures. They were so nice and kind! That’s what I love about Ramadan, besides its spiritual meaning, it has the power to bring people together.

During the holy month of Ramadan you may hear/use the following words and expressions:

  • If you have Turkish friends you can greet them by saying: Hayırlı Ramazanlar!/ İyi Ramazanlar!/ Ramazan ayınız mübarek olsun! (hayırlı=good, fortunate; ay=month/ayınız=your month; mübarek=blessed)
  • Ramazan ayı=month of Ramadan
  • oruç=fasting
  • oruç tutmak= to fast
  • namaz kılmak=to pray
  • ibadet=prayer
  • ezan=call to prayer
  • ramazan pidesi= round and flat bread eaten during Ramadan
  • iftar=traditional meal, eaten after sunset to break the daily fast during Ramadan
  • sahur=meal before sunrise

In the end I would like to cite Mevlâna Celâleddin-i Rûmî, one of my favourite Turkish author and spiritual leader: “Oruç, can gözünün açılması için bedenleri kör eder. Senin gönül gözün kör de, o yüzden kıldığın namazlar, yaptığın ibadetler sana o aydınlığı vermiyor, hakikati göstermiyor.”(www.memleket.com.tr) According to my amateur translation the meaning of Mevlana’s words are “Fasting, blinds our body in order to open our soul’s eye. If your heart is blind, your prayers, worship won’t enlighten you, won’t show you the truth.”

Image source: http://turkiyemayyildiz.com/showthread.php?tid=1221