Friday, October 30, 2009

Similar celebrations...

One of the things World Blog Surf Day does is show how cultures have lots of things in common holidays are no different. First there is the cooking and baking that must be done. Some things prepared in advance, others closer to the time but all according to secrets passed through the generations. Second is the cleaning. Everything must be cleaned, dusted, polished; ready for the next step. This is the visiting. Aunts, uncles, grandparents or parents must be visited and visitors must be welcomed into shining houses smelling of baking and delicious food.

In Ireland Christmas is the biggest celebration. Pudding, cake, trifle and mince pies prepared in advance; turkey, ham and roast potatoes on the day. My mother washing the kitchen floor at 1am when everyone else is in bed waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. Visiting my aunt and then on St Stephen’s Day the whole of my mother’s family coming for dinner. My mother spent both days in a panic of cooking and only rested by leaving my father to do the washing up!

In Turkey there are two celebrations that require similar preparation; Ramazan Bayram and Kurban Bayram. Ramazan Bayram marks the end of Ramazan, the Muslim month of fasting and is an orgy of food and sweets. Children must kiss the hands of their elders to celebrate the day and receive their allotment of sweets. Family visits are mandatory and can take up all three days of the holiday. My daughter was born on the first morning of Ramazan and as I struggled to keep some dignity the hospital board visited the ward giving chocolates to all the new mothers. I think it was the only time I ever turned down chocolate. There is Turkish delight, lokum, chocolate, boiled sweets, and of course baklava, layers of paper-thin pastry brushed with butter, sprinkled with nuts and drenched in syrup. The days beforehand involve terrific cleaning and preparing stuffed grape or cabbage leaves, borek a savoury pastry, and lots of dishes that can be served with tea.

Kurban Bayram is the sacrifice festival when animals are slaughtered and the meat divided between family, neighbours and poor people. Accompanying the sweets neighbours drop in with plates of fresh meat. While the councils set up special slaughter houses, some people prefer to do it themselves, killing animals on roadside verges, roundabouts and any other common ground. Inevitably some animal makes a break for it, causing havoc as it runs through crowded city streets.

Now on to Martin at Bulgarian Silvatree for the next stop on the World Blog Surf Day.

Thanks to Karen, an American expat blogger last seen in Prague, for being the World Blog Surf Day reporter. The Wall Street Journal said, "Her blog, Empty Nest Expat, makes a fun read for anyone looking for reassurance that change can be a wonderful thing--and also for anyone interested in visiting the Czech Republic.

And of course a big, big thank you to Sher at Czech Off the Beaten Path for arranging the World Blog Surf Day.


  1. The first holiday sounds wonderful, but the second one is a bit scary for me. How wonderful is this learning of traditions from all around the world today.
    Happy surfing :)

  2. Ah yes I remember Kurban Bayram from Azerbaijan - a man walking a sheep down the street, holding it's hind legs like he was pushing a wheelbarrow. And then there was our neighbour who brought a sheep home in the trunk of his car and slaughtered it under my balcony. A valuable lesson for my son as to where meat really comes from! ;-)

  3. When I hear Americans aren't close to their food sources, I scoff. Then I hear a story like your last one and think "ok, maybe we are!" Great post. Thanks!

  4. Not sure I could handle being around for Kurban Bayram, I think I will try to avoid going to Turkey when that one is happening.


  5. It's great to read about familiar events in unfamiliar countries, seeing how in many ways there are marked similarly - I'm from Malaysia, and Aidil Fitri and Aidil Adha (your Ramazan Bayram and Kurban Bayram respectively) are celebrated too. I've not had the opportunity (thankfully) to witness of the slaughter involved with the Kurban.

  6. Great post, I love to hear about traditions in other countries. I imagine it was really hard to have your daughter in the whole mayhem that accompanies the end of Ramadan ;-) SY

  7. I haven't had breakfast yet and this post makes me even hungrier (animal slaughter and all).

    Food is such a huge part of my family and holiday traditions. And so food has always made for easier transitions between cultures as well.

    Thank you for sharing this with us!

  8. I'm such a bleeding heart when it comes to animals that I'd best avoid Kurban Bayram too!

    Your comment about food and cleaning being the common denominator of celebrations around the world made me smile - so true, you just can't escape them (Not that you'd want to either; a spotless house and mounds of food are both very good things!)


  9. I had to re-post my contribution and lost all comments already made on it, my apologies to everybody affected! SY

  10. Thanks for all the comments and sorry I haven't got back online sooner.

    I think the next World Blog Surf Day should be about the pitfalls of having visitors (in this case, illness and cancelled flights!).