23 Nisan Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı Kutlu Olsun!
23 Nisan Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı (National Sovereignty and Children’s Day) in Fethiye: every year on 23rd April, Turkey celebrates National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, and since Beşkaza Meydanı (the Fethiye town square) came onto the scene, Fethiye has done this particular bayram in style. If you didn’t know previously that 23rd April is for celebrating all things children, a walk past Beşkaza Meydanı yesterday afternoon would have soon put you right.
National Sovereignty And Children’s Day
We decide to go along to see what’s going on – we like a carnival atmosphere every so often and it’s a sunny day. Walking along the kordon past Hello Bufe, we know from the streams of people – an overwhelming amount of whom are little people – wandering up and down that Beşkaza Meydanı is going to be a tad ‘lively.’
Voices from the speakers drift over the bay and along the kordon. Children taking it in turns to sing songs, occasionally broken by an adult voice shouting out children’s names. It’s their turn to perform. And “Can ____ please come to the meeting point. Your daughter is waiting for you. ______, your grandma is waiting for you.” When we’re actually at the square, this speaker is super loud. A muddle of parents, aunties, uncles, organisers, teachers…and kids; kids everywhere.
Kids in different performance costumes, faces painted with all manner of patterns, kids holding balloons with varying degrees of success – some are helium-filled and float off into the sky, others pop unexpectedly. It’s always the adults who look more shocked by the sudden noise than the kids. Of course, none of theses kids are looking where they’re going or paying attention to what the increasingly weary adults are telling them. They don’t have to – it’s Children’s Day – it’s their day.
We’re hungry and take ourselves off for a tost and fruit juice at İksirci Tezcan next to the cultural centre. Well we might have known it was going to be this busy. Waiters dashing around, parents sat wherever they spy a seat, kids chasing each other round the trees, pulling at the waiters, “Abi, can I have _______.” The waiters, while somehow managing to deliver tost after tost after tost after countless glasses of fruit juice to various tables, and clearing vacated tables, look remarkably patient – happy even – to be so much in demand by lots of little people who are making the most of having their day.
We wait a while for our tost – we’re amazed at how many servings of cheese and sucuk between two pieces of bread can come out of one serving hatch. Some kids have the punch-ball balloons. One kid decides I’m a good barrier from which to rebound his balloon from. “Yapma,” (stop it) scolds mum. Well, she can try. He uses the adjacent tree trunk for a few seconds before the balloon once again heads for my arm.
Mum stands up, tost and fruit juice in hand. All the kids have had tost ordered for them, but who wants to sit sensibly and eat when you’re fantastically over-excited and there’s so much going on, so much noise and colour? The tost is thrust in front of his mouth. “Ye,” (eat) demands mum. Child takes an uninterested minuscule nibble and runs off somewhere with another group of punch-ball-balloon-wielding little people.
More faces are being painted, pebbles are being painted, older kids whizz down zip wires organised by the local mountaineering club, kids scramble all over the statue of Atatürk – he who dedicated this day to the children after the inauguration of the Grand National Assembly – while parents try to take photos of them, prizes are awarded for who knows what, announcements and singing kids still blast through the nearby speaker…and after all that, these two adults surrender and weave our way towards the relative calm of Cafe Park Teras high up above the happy bedlam below…
…because in Turkey, 23rd April is Children’s Day…