by Margy, Forum Leader in the Expat Focus Turkey Forum
The Ramazan Bayrami (Festival) takes place over three and a half days. The half day is called Arife Gunu (say ah-ree-fay), this is the last day of the holy month of Ramazan and most offices and banks close at lunch time on this day so that people can go and prepare.
In 2010 the half day falls on Wednesday 8th September with the 3 day holiday on 9th, 10th and 11th. All official places are closed for 3 days.
Preparations for this big event start several weeks before; there is a huge amount of work involved!
One of the first things one notices is that many people wash their carpets and rugs, lots of soapy water gets splashed around! Of course nowadays there are professional carpet cleaning centres that make life easier. A few families in the cities and many in the country areas still get their house or flat painted or white washed before the holiday. This is a time when new furniture or curtains might be purchased too. Apart from all this, the house gets a thorough cleaning, to within an inch of its life! Once the apartment is all spruced up, the shopping can start!
In traditional families each member usually gets a brand new outfit to wear. Some women are very handy with the sewing machine and can run up just about anything even men’s shirts! There’s no problem if one can’t sew though, there is a whole range of places with varying prices where pretty dresses and suits and smart shirts and trousers are on sale. Market stalls, supermarkets, boutiques and department stores are all hustle and bustle at this time.
Next it’s time to think about baking! All kinds of delicious desserts are usually made at home. Baklava is the most popular and there are others, all generally very sweet and sticky! My mother-in-law always used to make her own baklava. She would make several large trays of this scrumptious dessert! It would have disappeared by the 2nd day of the Bayram! She made her own tissue thin pastry with butter, rolled it out and the filling was of locally grown walnuts. In the cities nowadays most working wives have to order these kinds of treats from local baklava makers.
My father-in-law used to help her make some delightful round cookies, that taste rather like shortbread. Made with flour, butter and icing sugar, my father-in-law used to knead them for her. Before baking them until they were firm but not golden at all, she would pop an almond on each one. They were my favourites!
On Arife Gunu (the half day preparation) there is a poignant tradition that most families follow if at all possible. They visit the local cemetery, taking flowers and saying prayers for their dearly departed.
The Ramazan drummer doesn’t let people forget him! He comes round during the day and collects a few tips. I’ve also noticed that these days the dustmen knock at the doors and happily pick up any tips offered! Cleaning ladies, gardeners, drivers etc are often given gifts or cash. People try and remember others less fortunate, the elderly, sick and children. For example it’s a nice gesture to buy outfits for the children of the caretaker family in the apartment block or take a tray of baklava and some toys to the local orphanage. Someone in the city might send their relatives back in the village something nice for their home, a television for instance.
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