Ramadan is a holy month. It is the 9th month of the Muslim calendar that begins (and ends) with the appearance of the new moon. It is a month of fasting, communal prayer, introspection and reading the Koran. During this month, people refrain from food, drinks, smoking, sexual activity and any form of impure thoughts from sunrise till sunset. As soon as the sun sets, and after prayer, people gather to enjoy Iftar, the meal that breaks the fast and that usually starts with dates, sweetened milk or water, and apricots. Traditionally, just before sunrise, the Ramadan Drummers do their wake-up call to warn people that if they still want to eat a meal before dawn, now is the time.
Some people, while religious, do not fast. These can be children, people who are too weak or old, pregnant women, or even travelers who are on a long journey. Usually, the fasting is then substituted by feeding the poor, volunteering or performing righteous works. Eating or drinking at the wrong time or being unable to fast due to illness, can be compensated with an extra day of fasting.
The end of the Ramadan in Turkey and its fast is celebrated as Ramazan Bayramı – Şeker Bayramı or Sugar Feast. This is one of the most important religious holidays of the Muslim calendar. Allah now forgives past sins of those who have complied to the holy month. You will see children wearing new clothes, people exchanging gifts and delicious pastries, and lots of people on the road when the family is visited.
These are probably the busiest days of the year in Turkey.
The Sugar Feast marks the end of the holy Ramadan month. It is a three and a half day long celebration that starts with Sugar Feast Eve. Most administrations are closed in the afternoon when people start preparing food and baklava for the Sugar Feast.
From this time on, expect traffic to become hectic all over Turkey. The next day, when Ramazan Bayramı starts, you’ll see people wearing their best clothes, and enormous amounts of sweets and traditional desserts such as baklava are consumed, hence the name Sugar Feast.
People all over Turkey visit their relatives, honor the dead by visiting the cemetery, and children go door-to-door hoping for sweets or some money. You’ll hear people wishing you (or anyone else) İyi Bayramlar, which translates to have a good feast. People kiss older people’s hands as a sign of respect when they transfer their wishes.
During the 3-day long Sugar Feast, all schools and official administrations are closed.