The month of May is seen as marking the arrival of summer in Turkey, and celebrations and festivities welcoming the summer months are coming to the forefront. May opened with the one of the most peaceful May Day celebrations in the history of this nation, and the festivities continue to unfold.
The Nevruz festivities, which are mainly celebrated by Kurdish and Turkic populations, already ushered in the start of spring in April. As part of the celebrations, people gathered in parks and squares to celebrate the advent of Nevruz.
Throughout the month of May, universities and students come together for spring festivities. These spring festivals are namely music and recreational events, and some institutions, such as the private Koç University, have even taken an additional step and made tickets available on the website Billetix, priced at TL 67.50. The spring festivals on most university campuses are not organized by the university per se but by student-led associations. In particular, social activity clubs at some of the universities are responsible for the events. Social activity clubs within universities are generally the most active clubs, organizing social events throughout the year. Popular musicians may even perform at these May events, demonstrating the proactive efforts exerted by these student-led associations.
The doors of the university are also opened to the general public during this period. Alcohol consumption, which is generally not allowed on university premises, is permitted at some institutions during the festivities. Boğaziçi University’s Student Services Office has explained that the university has no involvement in the production of the festivities; rather, various student-led clubs prepare different activities and very few people who are employed by the university actually participate in the events.
A representative of the student-led council of Koç University stated that the event is one that is open to the public and that they welcome every age group. However, they added that although the festival is open to the general public, experience from previous years shows that there are always a larger number of younger people attending the festival, as it is primarily organized by youth associations within the university.
Fatih University, İstanbul’s more multicultural university, takes a different approach to the festivities. During the first week of May, international student associations organize a cultural festival, as part of which they celebrated the diversity of their university.
In addition, the spring festival of Hıdırellez is İstanbul’s largest annual free festival; it is a celebration of “the day of Hızır” -- which in Islamic belief is the day that the prophets Hızır and Ilyas met. Hıdırellez falls on May 5-6 and it is believed that all wishes that are made on that night will be granted within the span of a year.
For the past 11 years, celebrations have taken place on the night of May 5 at Ahırkapı in the touristic district of Sultanahmet. People involved in the festival commonly write their wish on a piece of paper and attach it to a sacred Nahil, or “wish tree.”
This year, however, the festival has been cancelled. The main reason for the cancellation of the festival was due to the lack of security needed for the management of the large crowds that attend the festivities. Although the main festival in Ahırkapı was cancelled this year, smaller Hıdırellez festivals continue to take place throughout the various provinces of Turkey. The Roma community within Turkey in particular places special emphasis on the celebration of this day.
The Kakava festival is generally celebrated by the Roma populations of Turkey and takes place in the western province of Edirne. Edirne Roma Association head Fikri Ocak states that the Kakava festivities represent one of the “greatest” days in the calendar. A bonfire ceremony and music play a large role in the celebrations.
May 19 is also Youth and Sports Day and is an public holiday in Turkey. The day commemorates the start of the Turkish War of Independence. During this period youth-led organizations across the country usually organize festivals and celebrations. Youths around Turkey generally observe the day by singing the national anthem and attending sporting events, and various parades often take place.