Iyi bayramlar to all of you out there celebrating the end of Ramadan holiday (Eid al-Fitr, Ramazan Bayramı) in Turkey and elsewhere. Though I am not Muslim, I am definitely happy to have the day off. This holiday lasts for 3 days and this year 2 of those days land on the weekend. Though I work most Sundays, this will be my regular rotational Sun. off -- so I am feeling lucky to have a full 3 days off. Probably won't happen again for quite some time.
For kids here in Turkey, this is really the biggest holiday of the year. They go from door to door ringing bells and people give them money and/or candy. Everyone also gets new outfits for this holiday and most kids are running around in them today. However, I have also noticed a certain amount of costuming going on and I wonder if this could have been some kind of strange crossover influence of Halloween from the US (and other places that celebrate it). There was a young boy traipsing about in a spiderman costume. I did a double take when I saw him and had to remind myself that this was not October 31 and I was in Turkey, not the US.
Tomorrow, Evren and I are heading to Kaynarca, the village of his grandparents. It is traditional during this holiday to visit your family and especially pay respects to your elders. This is done by kissing the back of their hand and then touching it to your forehead. It will be kind of sad to go back this year because Ev's grandmother, who was one of my favorite people among his relatives, died last October. We will visit her grave at the family graveyard, on top of a hill overlooking the village. All of his aunts and his mom will be at the house that belonged to his grandma. We will go around and visit many of the older neighbors and friends that he knew as a child.
When I first visited Turkey back in 2005, I came during another bayram. Ev took me to the village so I could meet a lot of his extended family and old friends. His grandma, who was in her 90s (no one was sure of her exact age), was one of the first people I met there. She was tiny, hovering around 4 feet tall, but strong and full of life. She made me feel very welcome, though my Turkish was very limited at the time. Almost every other sentence from her was a joke or an engaging story from the past. One of my favorite stories was how Ev as a child used to go around the village and collect all the stray puppies. He would gather them into large sacks and tote them back to his grandma's yard. There he would free them, bring down a bunch of food and feed them all. Eventually his grandmother would make him release them all back into the village, but she was much more lenient with him and the puppies than his grandpa.
Though this is not "my" holiday per-say, I appreciate it for giving me a better glimpse into Ev's extended family and his childhood. And though Ev has lamented this year that the holiday isn't as special as it used to be because many of his cousins and friends no longer return to the village, it's still quite special to me as the first holiday I experienced in this country and because we have made it our own family tradition to go back every year.
I'm a Southern California girl whose wanderlust emerged at age 3 on my first trip to the Philippines. If I'm not on a trip, you can be sure that I'm planning one. Life is a journey, challenging us to live in the only thing we have, this moment.