Sweet celebration: Ramazan Bayramı

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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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Turkish Delight: the sweetest sweet since 1777

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Turkish delight is not just the sweetest sweet, a delightful dessert but also a trademark of Turkey. It’s one of my favourite Turkish culinary delights! These (usually) square pieces of jelly consistence are served with coffee or tea at any time of the day. Lokum can be found in a great variety of flavours: whether we talk about nuts, pistachio, different kinds of fruits or flowers and plants like rose or lavender.

According to Turkey Travel Planner  “The story of the creation of Turkish Delight (lokum) begins in the late 1700s, when Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir, confectioner to the imperial court in Istanbul, listens to the sultan rant: “Hard candy! I’m tired of hard candy!” the sultan growled as he cracked a tooth on yet another  sour ball. “I demand soft candy!””

Hacı Bekir combined sugar and starch to please the sultan and to create his famous lokum. According to Victoria Combe the original name of Turkish delight was rahat lokum, which comes from the Arabic rahat-ul hulkum meaning “soothe or heal the throat”. The English version, “Turkish Delight”, was attributed by an English traveller from the 18th Century, who bought lokum for his relatives, and couldn’t pronounce its name in Arabic.

Turkish delight is “impossible to be reproduced in any other country, although efforts to imitate the texture of Turkish lokums have conduced to the invention of jelly candies in the western world”, informs the official website of the Hacı Bekir company owned by the descendants of the lokum’s inventor. Therefore if you want to taste the original lokum you should buy it from the original shop in Istanbul or order from their online shop.

Ads from the company’s early years [2]:

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Text of first ad: Taste of Bayram! Worldwide fame.Second ad: There is always a place for Hacı Bekir sweets in your travelling bag.

Nowadays Turkish delight is used in many recipes and it has inspired many cosmetic companies, as you can see below:

Would you like to taste these Turkish delight cupcakes [3] or cheesecakes [4] ? I would definitely have a bite…or two! Who am I fooling? I would stop only after finishing them.

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Have you thought about having a Turkish delightful shower? Then maybe you are looking for the shower smoothie called Turkish delight [5]

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What about using a lip balm as sweet as Turkish delight [6]?

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Or perfume [7]?

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I haven’t tried these products yet, but I’m tempted to give them a try. Meanwhile I will delight myself with lokum, looking forward for my next travel to Turkey, in order to get more and more…and more Turkish delight!

Image sources:[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Bibliography:

  1. Turkish Delight (Lokum), “Turkey Travel Planner”
  2. Victoria Combe, Sweet Little History, “The Telegraph”
  3. History, “Hacı Bekır”