Celebrating Eid al-Fitr the Turkish way

August 21, 2012, Tuesday/ 17:28:00

The cannon being fired three times at the Alanya Castle on the first day of Shawwal signs that Ramadan has finished and it is time for Muslims around the world to celebrate their anticipated Eid al-Fitr festival. The cannon shot not only signals the first day of the month of Shawwal, but it is also used to signify the start of Ramadan, the time of the iftar (when the fast is broken) as well as the imsaq (when the fast begins). The cannon shot during Ramadan, called “Ramazan topu,” has been a tradition dating back hundreds of years to the Ottoman Empire.

Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar. La ilaha illallah. Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar. Wa lillahil hamd. During the nights of Eid, these words, called “takbir,” are always heard from the mosques around the house in my hometown. But here I can’t hear the takbir anymore. The takbir is now only heard inside the mosque as the external speakers have been turned off.

Since 2005 I have grown accustomed to celebrating Eid in Turkey. There are some differences with the Eid in my home country. In Indonesia, all Muslims, both men and women, attend the Eid prayer. But here in Turkey only men go for the prayer while the women remain behind at home, preparing for breakfast.

I don’t know why this is the case in Turkey -- that women are not part of the Eid prayer. There are hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) that encourage women to attend the Eid prayer.

When the men come back from the mosque, the wife kisses the husband’s hand, the children kiss both of the parents’ hands. The younger generation does this out of respect for their elders and everyone comes together to have breakfast.

There is no special cuisine for Eid in Turkey, unlike Ramadan. The foods on this day are the same as on any other day, while this is different in Indonesia as there are many foods, such as special cookies, prepared for Eid. The most typical cuisine for Eid is “ketupat.” Ketupat is rice cooked in coconut leaf casings. It is very delicious and eaten with opor ayam. Since 2005, I have not been able to savor the delights of ketupat and opor ayam on Ramazan Bayramı (Eid al-Fitr) because I simply don’t have enough time to cook these delicacies as I help my husband with his shop during the holy month.

A unique tradition in Turkey is that the children come to the neighbors’ houses for candies. They knock on all the doors in the neighborhood. When the neighbor opens the door, they will say “iyi bayramlar” or “bayramınız kutlu/mübarek olsun.” Then the neighbor will give them candy and return the wishes. Even if the neighbor gives them only one small candy, the happiness shows on their face. In my opinion, this candy-hunting tradition is the same as Halloween in the West.

And then there’s the giving of Eid pocket money. Here in Turkey, the old give money to the young, even if the children have their own jobs and are married. I, as a foreign bride, always receive pocket money on every Eid from my in-laws.

Shopping for new clothes is high on the list of items for Eid preparation. This tradition kept us quite busy prior to Eid. Buying candies, chocolate, lokum and cologne are important, too. These things must be available in every house to serve the guests upon their arrival.

In my home country, we don’t have the tradition with candies or cologne, but shopping for new clothes is always a priority. I wonder who popularized the Eid clothes shopping. Prior to 2005, I was merely a shopper for Eid clothes. But after 2005 I became the seller of Eid clothes through our family business, and on Eid nights I feel exhausted because I stay at the shop until the early morning. The shops in Alanya used to be open until early morning, around 2-3 a.m. But this year, the mayor of Alanya made a new regulation that the shops must close at midnight. Even though the new regulation was for midnight, we could not stick to it because the people of Alanya continued to flock to our store. We finally closed shop at 1 a.m.

Besides visiting neighbors and relatives, we must not forget to pay a visit to the departed. Even though we can offer prayers for them at home, it is tradition to visit the cemetery. My father-in-law always goes with his sons and granddaughter to the cemetery after finishing breakfast. Sometimes I go with them to read Surah Yasin at the tomb of my grandfather-in-law.

On this occasion I would like to wish all Muslims around the world a blessed Eid.