23 Nisan Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı Kutlu Olsun! Which roughly translates as, ‘Happy 23rd April National Sovereignty & Children’s Day!’
What Is National Sovereignty & Children’s Day In Turkey?
National Sovereignty & Children’s Day is a national holiday in Turkey which takes place annually on April 23rd.
The day marks the anniversary of the inauguration of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on April 23rd, 1920.
This first gathering of the Grand National Assembly was headed by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.
The Assembly gathered in Ankara during the War of Independence and the foundations of the new Republic were laid down.
As it was a new beginning (since the fall of the Ottoman Empire) and children are seen as the future, Atatürk dedicated this day to the children.
Hence, we now have National Sovereignty & Children’s Day.
Children’s Day was celebrated for the first time in 1927.
How Is National Sovereignty & Children’s Day Celebrated?
Whilst April 23rd is a national holiday, Children’s Day in Turkey is also celebrated in the few days running up to the 23rd.
Performances & Displays
Schools mark the day by having ‘dressing up’ days. The children put on performances and displays.
And, of course, learn about why April 23rd is such an important day.
These displays and performances are put on for the public and take place in schools and in local public areas such as stadiums, parks and squares.
In Fethiye, many local ceremonies take place at Beşkaza Meydanı (the main town square), aptly watched over by the statue of Atatürk holding the hand of a child.
Some children’s groups will make the journey to the capital, Ankara and visit Anıtkabir; the mausoleum of Atatürk.
There aren’t many people in Turkey who have never visited the mausoleum of the founder of the Republic of Turkey!
Turkish Government & Municipality Roles
Other lucky ones will get the opportunity to enter various government buildings and ceremonially take over the roles of mayor, governor or even president for the day.
The children of Fethiye are shown here, doing their bit in their bit in the local government offices of Fethiye, helping out in the office of mayor, Alim Karaca.
A special session also sometimes takes place in Turkish Parliament where children are given the opportunity to convene and discuss children’s issues.
It really is the children’s day!
As we’re in Fethiye and sitting right on the southwest Turkish coast, we often have a visit from at least one naval ship for National Sovereignty & Children’s Day.
As it’s a celebration, these ships will be decked in colourful buntins.
Children Of The World
One of the great aspects of National Sovereignty & Children’s Day is that it is not solely reserved for the children of Turkey.
This public holiday also sees children from different countries being invited to Turkey for cultural exchanges.
The foreign children get the opportunity to spend time with Turkish families. And also take part in activities to learn about each other’s cultures.
23rd April is an International Children’s Day and this aspect of the special day has been taking place on an almost annual basis since 1979.
This is the year when UNESCO declared this year as the International Year of the Child.
TRT (Turkish Television & Radio Corporation) organised the first International Children’s Festival where some of the world’s children could come together under the motto of Love, Friendship & Peace.
Of course, these children also get to show off their traditional dances and national costumes.
We, the public, get to witness it all.
It’s a happy April time in which the kids are the stars of the show.
The photo above is of Greek dancers performing one year at Beşkaza Meydanı in front of the culture centre.
Much applause afterwards from the Turkish and Greek members of the audience as speeches were made, in both Turkish and Greek, about brotherhood between the two nationalities.
A day of togetherness!
It’s Not All Work, Work, Work
All work and no play for Children’s Day? No, of course not.
In Fethiye, Children’s Day often sees a hive of well organised chaotic activity!
Face painting, group activities, general charging around, packing the tables of Iksirci Tezcan for tost and fruit juice as parents try to calm the over-excited kids down a little.
The Two Year Hiatus of Children’s Day
Children’s Day celebrations in 2022 have been a particularly welcome and happy event in Fethiye. And no doubt in other areas of Turkey.
We had children’s parades along the harbour. Both Turkish and those from other countries.
Again, main activities were held in the town square and it was just so pleasing to be able to see so many children together again.
Because, of course, the Coronavirus pandemic put pay to any normal circumstances where gatherings could take place. No such thing for 2020 and 2021.
Not to be deterred, children celebrated from their homes. They stood on their balconies and in gardens to wave Turkish flags and sing songs.
The local council did its bit by driving around localities in vehicles blasting out patriotic songs and flying flags.
At the same time, they were putting songs out over the public tannoy systems so families could come out into the gardens and balconies and join in, in unison.
The internet came into its own as children from all over Turkey recorded virtual communal songs and recitals. These were all online and shared via social media.
A wonderful way of coming together without actually being together in person.
But nothing can beat the reality of coming together in person.
2022 gave us all a very welcome return to just that!
Here’s to more large gatherings for the celebration of National Sovereignty & Children’s Day!
23 Nisan Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı Kutlu Olsun!