The spring festival of Hıdırellez was celebrated on Saturday night across Turkey, where citizens in different provinces celebrated “the day of al-Khidr” with their own unique festivities.
The Hıdırellez, which falls in the first week of May, is a commemoration of the day the Prophets al-Khidr and Elijah met in Islamic belief, and it is believed that any wishes made during the festival will be granted within the span of a year.
Hıdırellez festivities are common throughout Turkey. Each province has its own unique way of celebrating the day and of making wishes on the night of May 5, following customs passed down from their ancestors.
In the province of Van, locals gathered by the Akköprü River after the morning prayer to throw pieces of paper with their wishes written on them onto the banks and into the river at morning's first light.
In Antakya, residents participated in a similar ceremony, writing wishes on stones and paper and leaving them at the riverbank.
Hıdırellez participants in Ankara's Hamamönü district left wishes and small gifts in a park the municipality assigned for the celebrations, where residents danced throughout the day. Tuncay Temel, deputy minister of the Altındağ Municipality, in which Hamamönü is located, told the Anatolia news agency that he was proud of the celebrations and said the municipality had worked to accommodate the festivities.
Folklore scholar Öcal Oğuz of Gazi University explained to the Anatolia news agency that the festival was an important way to preserve folkloric traditions “amid the massive trend towards urbanization in Turkey.”
In the southwestern town of Budur, participants enjoyed dancing at nearby Budur Lake and an eight-kilometer bicycle race. Similar celebrations were held in the southwestern cities of Afyonkarahisar and Isparta.
The festival was also celebrated by the Roma community in the western province of Edirne, where revelers gathered near Tunca Nehri Lake to dance and sing.
Celebrations were also held across İstanbul, the largest of which was in the Ahırkapı district of Sultanahmet. İstanbulites involved in the festival commonly celebrate by writing their wishes on a piece of paper and attaching it to a sacred Nahil or “wish tree.”