The spiritual atmosphere in Türkiye during the month of Ramadan is full of forgiveness, mercy and peace. Practicing the core values of this fasting month brings the best out of people who become more tolerant, helpful, understanding, and caring.
Sharing is a big part of this month as well. People who are in need are especially remembered. Different methods are used to extend helping hands to the community. What makes Ramadan in Türkiye even better are all the traditions that are practiced and celebrated to this day. We hope that these traditions will be carried forward and preserved for many years to come.
Mahya is a stream of intricate lights that hangs between the two minarets of selected famous mosques. It quotes a message or a wise saying that serves as a reminder for the entire community. Hanging the mahya is a 450 year old tradition that used to be done using oil lamps and ropes.
Community iftars are held in the month of Ramadan to reinforce neighborship and share the joy of iftar among the community members. During the summer they take place outdoors with everyone bringing a variety of food to the tables set up on the streets between houses. This is a common practice in small neighborhoods where people already know each other.
On the other hand, iftar tents are set up at major hubs throughout big cities for people to have iftar meals together regardless of the season. The meals are free and financed by municipalities, charities or benevolent people to not only ensure the needy have iftars throughout the month of Ramadan, but to facilitate more engagement between the people of these cities.
Diş Kirası – Tooth Rent
This tradition entails giving gifts to guests in exchange for having the privilege of hosting them for iftar meals during Ramadan. In Ottoman times, the sultan would have gold coins put in the food and whoever found the coins would get to keep them. This was the sultan’s way of thanking his hosts for helping him perform a good deed and since his guests used their teeth to chew the food, the name of this tradition became known as “diş kirası” meaning “tooth rent”. This tradition was used particularly as a way to elate the needy and continues today in the form of small gifs or money.
Zimem Defteri – Debt Book
During the Ottoman Empire, the wealthy would visit shops in the month of Ramadan and ask for the “zimem defteri” where the community members’ debts were recorded. These wealthy people would then pay off the debts of some or everyone that owed money to the shopkeeper. The person paying off the debts wouldn’t know whose debt they were paying off and the person whose debt was paid wouldn’t know who paid it. This tradition promotes anonymous giving and continues to this day.
Osmanlı Şerbeti – Ottoman Şerbet Drink
“Şerbet” is one of the indispensable, natural and healthy drinks of Ottoman cuisine that is served even today. For the last 600 years, it has been made using dry or fresh fruits and spices. Its refreshing taste makes “şerbet” a great substitute for water especially during the month of Ramadan.
Güllaç – Dessert
Güllaç is a traditional Turkish dessert that dates back to the Ottoman Empire and still retains its special place on the iftar tables during the month of Ramadan. The dessert is made with thin crispy güllaç sheets, milk and sugar. Crushed walnuts are generously spread between the layers and pomegranate is often used as a garnish. The name “Güllaç” is derived from the word gül (rose) because rosewater is used in its making.
Ramazan Pidesi – Ramadan Flatbread
Pide is a type of flat bread prepared specially for the month of Ramadan in Türkiye. Pide lines in front of bakeries before iftar is a very common sight. Most bakeries sell plain pide and pide baked with egg yolk spread on top. The streets are filled with people rushing home to their iftar table with their fresh, hot pide.
Ramadan and Kids
“Tekne” Orucu – “Dough bowl” Fasting
“Tekne orucu”, which refers to a short duration of fasting, is a nice way to help kids get accustomed to Ramadan fasting. Depending on the age and their strength, the length of the fast is left up to the child’s ability. In old times, kids secretly broke their fasts before iftar time around the “ekmek teknesi” (dough bowl) where the name of this fast originated from.
Arefe Çiçeği – Eve Flower
“Arefe çiçeği” is a nickname coined during the Ottoman Empire that refers to the children who on the eve of Eid couldn’t wait for morning so they excitedly put on their festive clothes and ran out to the streets. Dressed like beautiful flowers, these children interacted with the townspeople and brought the joy of Eid to the neighborhood. Hence, “arefe çiçeği” means the “eve flower”.
Ramazan Topu – Ramadan Cannon
The Ramadan cannon which fires a single shot every evening during the holy month signals the iftar time for people who are fasting. This tradition dates back several centuries and still continues to be done in some provinces of Türkiye. It was mainly done to ensure that everyone broke their fast on time.
Ramazan Davulcusu – Ramadan Drummer
In Ottoman times, the Ramadan drummer took the place of alarm clocks during Ramadan. The drummers used to roam the streets playing their drums loudly to wake people up for suhoor. It is still possible to see them throughout Türkiye keeping this tradition alive. They also read short, fun, and meaningful poems with rhymes called “mani” to keep the Ramadan spirit high.
“Ezanlar hep okundu
Aç karnına çok yedim
Bana biraz dokundu” (Original poem)
“All athans have been called
I broke my fast with Turkish delights
I think I had too many
Now it hurts my tummy” (Translated by Akwa)
- Ramadan – Fasting month for Muslims
- Ramadan Fasting – Abstaining from food, drinks and sexual relations from dawn till sunset for the entire month of Ramadan; 29 to 30 days.
- İftar – The meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan
- Eid – A worldwide holiday and celebration for Muslims at the end of the month of Ramadan.
- Suhoor – Pre-dawn meal
- Athan – The call to prayer