Şeker Bayram (sheh-kehr by-rahm) or sugar festival, is a national religious holiday in Turkey which begins the day after Ramazan. In Arabic, the name of the holiday is Id-ul Fitr. The name Şeker Bayram came from the tradition of exchanging sweets during this holiday. Ramazan is the month of fasting for Muslims all over the world. Şeker Bayram, like Ramazan, is based on the Islamic lunar calendar, so it occurs during different periods each year. Officially, Şeker Bayram lasts three and one half days, but Turks may be off work, and businesses may be closed, for a longer period if it occurs near a weekend.
In the days preceding Şeker Bayram, shopping centers and stores are crowded with Turks buying gifts for relatives and new clothes for themselves and their children, which are called "bayramlık." The new clothing is proudly worn during the holiday. Additionally, houses are thoroughly cleaned and prepared for the inevitable throngs of family and friends the holiday will bring.
Schools, banks, and government offices are always closed during Şeker Bayram. Many private businesses also close, so the owner and workers can enjoy their holiday.
The first day of Şeker Bayram is the most important. Everyone wakes up early, and the men go to the mosque for a special Bayram prayer. When they return from the mosque, everyone dresses up in their new clothes, and they begin their Bayram visits.
A Tradition of Visiting
Young people visit their elders first, followed by their other relatives. Bayram visits are kept short--usually to ten or fifteen minutes. Hosts of the visits offer candy, cakes, chocolate, coffee and cold beverages. Those who cannot visit their friends and family members in other towns will call them or send cards to wish them a happy bayram.
From one day before Şeker Bayram to its end, Turks also visit the graves of deceased family members, to pay their respects and pray.
Important! The highways and streets are crowded during Şeker Bayram, and many serious and fatal accidents occur during this holiday period. So it's best to avoid driving if possible. If you must drive, exercise additional caution. Bus travel is also affected by the throngs of travelers moving all over the country. If you need to take a bus somewhere during Şeker Bayram, try to book in advance.
Resort towns and holiday spots swell with Turkish visitors during the Şeker Bayram holiday. Many hotels offer special deals to attract the Turkish holiday makers, so once the family visits are over, many will hit the road for a well-earned vacation.
Children During Şeker Bayram
Children love Şeker Bayram and the associated visits. They want to visit as many elders as they can, since it's traditional for elders to give them pocket change. Children can collect this money for up to a month. Since there is no restriction on how much the children can spend or on what, amusement parks spring up in practically every city and town in Turkey. The children follow a traditional routine. They kiss the back of your hand and hold it to their forehead as a sign of respect. It is meant to say "you are in a position on the top of my head!" And when they do that, you are supposed to kiss them on both cheeks. Then they will hold out their hand, into which you should put a small amount of money--a few lira will suffice. Children also go door-to-door doing this, expecting to be given candy. It's much like the "trick or treat" tradition of Halloween. So you should have a bowl of good candy ready by your door.
As male children born during Ramazan often take that name, boys born during Şeker Bayram are often called "Bayram." So when you meet a man named Bayram, you'll know why he has that name.
People who regularly provide services, such as the kapıcı (kah-puh-juh), or apartment building superintendent, domestic workers, are traditionally given a tip for the Bayram holiday. On the first day, you'll also hear that inescapable "boom-chook-chook-boom" as those Ramazan drummers who woke you up at 3:00 AM over the past month, go door to door for tips.
Gifts and Good Wishes
If you visit your Turkish friends, take a box of candy or chocolates with you. It should be wrapped, and left on a table near the door. Turks don't open gifts when presented, so don't expect this. To wish your Turkish friend a happy holiday, say "İyi Bayramlar!" (ee-yee-by-rahm-lahr), which literally means "good festivals," or "I wish you a happy festival!"