Of the national and religious festivals in Turkey, Kurban Bayramı (Eid al-Adha) is right up there amongst the biggest and most important.
What Is Kurban Bayramı?
Kurban Bayramı or Eid al-Adha is an important religious holiday in the Islamic calendar and is also called the Feast of Sacrifice.
It lasts for four and a half days and takes place around 70 days after the end of Ramazan.
The festival celebrates the Quran’s account of Ibrahim’s display of ultimate loyalty to Allah. Ibrahim is asked to sacrifice his son Ishmael.
Ibrahim obeys. But, at the last moment, Allah stops Ibrahim and a ram replaces Ishmael for sacrifice. Allah praises Ibrahim for his loyalty and faith.
For those familiar with the Old Testament of the Bible, you will recognise this as the story of Abraham and Isaac.
Whilst there are slight variations in the story, the message is the same – obedience and submission to God or Allah.
How Is Kurban Bayramı Celebrated Today?
This means the festival falls around 11 days earlier each year of the Gregorian calendar.
Whatever the time of year, however, many families will do as Ibrahim did and sacrifice an animal. This is usually a goat, sheep or sometimes even a cow.
In years gone by when we first moved here, we would see goats and sheep in people’s yards in the run up to Kurban Bayramı.
And we would see them afterwards, too…
These days, it is illegal for families to kill their own animals. It must be done by specially qualified butchers who will also clean, prepare and pack the meat afterwards in a hygienic setting.
Stations will be set up in towns and cities where people can take their animals.
And, as it’s the 21st century, supermarkets and butchers will also sell Kurban Bayramı meat packs that people can buy.
Illegal or not, however, the emergency rooms of hospitals still fill with people needing stitches – and more – after attempting to channel their inner butcher.
What Happens To All That Meat?
Kurban Bayramı is a festival of family gatherings, festivities and charity. If you do Christmas in your family, this is similar. Except we traditionally eat turkey, of course.
At Kurban Bayramı, families gather for meals, the meat is shared between families, neighbours and also donated to those less well off.
And if you know about Turkish cuisine, you’ll not be surprised to know that little, if anything goes to waste.
Soups (kelle paça, ayak paça, işkembe, beyin) stews and stocks are made from all parts of the animal.
Kokoreç makes use of the intestines. Söğüş uses tongue, cheeks and brain.
We were invited to a friend’s family gathering one year. Fortunately, they were doing a huge barbecue and had made shish kebabs from some of their meat.
And, of course, not all Turkish people want to sacrifice an animal or eat meat – there are lots of vegetarians and vegans out there.
But Kurban Bayramı is still important. Many people will visit the mosque. And many will make a donation to charity as part of the festival rather than kill an animal.
Kurban Bayramı Festivities
And everyone enjoys the Kurban Bayramı festivities.
A Spruce Up
Some towns and cities will have decorative lights.
Areas of town that might have needed a bit of TLC previously will get that TLC so that everything is looking spruced up and the best it can be for the festival.
And that goes for people, too. New clothes for Kurban Bayramı!
Chain stores around the country will promote their recommended trends for the season, whilst older relatives and other creative family members will be busy with the knitting needles!
As for homes – well they get to look their Sunday best, too.
If you want to order anything – from new white goods to sofas to soft furnishings – and Kurban Bayramı is coming up soon, get in the queue!
And then there’s the travelling around Kurban Bayramı.
If you are travelling in Turkey, make sure you know when Kurban Bayramı is!
There’s often not a seat to be had on the intercity buses. And domestic flights and the roads are busy with people travelling to be with their families.
Either stay in the place where you are for a few days. Or book onward travel and any accommodation well in advance!
Extra buses and flights are laid on, so that also means extra busy otogars (bus stations and airports).
Because the Kuırban Bayramı festival falls 11 days earlier each year, we get times when it happens during the warmer months.
This is the case in the early to mid 2020s. And this is where the Turkish government sometime do things, differently.
A good boost for the country’s tourist attractions and holiday resorts when the government extends the 4 and a half days holiday to 9 days.
This is usually the five weekdays and the two weekend days at either side.
And when the festival falls in the colder months, the country’s ski resorts and cities benefit from the tourist influx.
Notes For Travellers
We’ve already mentioned about getting from A to B immediately before, during and after Kurban Bayramı.
Make sure you have booked in advance or stay where you are for a few days and enjoy the festivities.
Kurban Bayramı is a religious festival and it also a national holiday. This means banks, post offices and other public services will be closed.
ATMs have been known to run out of cash, sometimes, so either get prepared or make sure you have enough cash to hand along with whatever plastic you are using.
Whilst some restaurants, bars and tourist attractions might close for some or all of the first day of the festival, most will be open afterwards and busy.
So, once you’re all prepped, the only thing to remember is to enjoy the festival atmosphere.
Kurban Bayramınız Kutlu Olsun. İyi Bayramlar!