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Special Occasion / Holiday Dishes

Zümrüt Nahya

Research in our country has turned up an extreme variety of special days and holidays, so many that I felt the need for limits on the subject in order not to scatter my fire. I will thus limit this article to certain special days throughout the country, and only a few special days unique to various regions, and in this context, the foods which are the real focus.

These special days have been sorted into certain categories, during which they will be examined.

In my examination of the subject, I have tried to address the foods made, eaten, served and distributed only in terms of what they are, why they are unique to those days, the results expected and desired, and drawn a few conclusions.

Due to the great number of these dishes, it is not possible to provide recipes for them in a work of such limited scope. It was also not possible to acquire the recipes from the sources available.

The special days for which we will examine the foods have been classified as follows:

  1. Religious Festivals and Special Days
    1. Ramadan (Feast of Ramadan)
    2. Feast of the Sacrifice
    3. Month of Muharrem (Month/day of Aşure)
    4. Kandils
  2. Seasonal Festivals and Special Days
    1. Hıdrellez
    2. Nevruz
    3. Kiraz Bayramı
    4. Yoğurt Bayramı
    5. İlin Ayın Ahırı
    6. Koç Katımı
    7. Çiğdem Pilavı
  3. Marriage
    1. Söz Kesme
    2. Engagement
    3. Wedding
    4. Bride’s Bath
    5. Henna Night
    6. Other Days of the Wedding
    7. Night of Consummation
  4. Circumcision
  5. Rain Prayers

I will now address these special days one by one, and describe the foods associated with then.

I. Religious Festivals and Special Days

a) Feast of Ramadan (Şeker Bayramı)

Guests are treated to candy and sweets, for which reason the holiday is known as Şeker Bayramı, or “Candy Festival.” When coffee is available, it is commonly served. Various sweets are made both to eat and to serve to guests. In Aydın and Muğla, the sweets made for the Feast of Ramadan are kalburabastı (known also as hurma tatlısı in some areas), baklava, kadayıf, and un kurabiyesi.

In addition to sweets, certain rich foods are also made throughout the Feast, including stuffed chicken or turkey, and soup/pilaf made with its broth, göveç, keşkek made with meat, chickpeas, hulled wheat and beans, and various böreks.

b) Feast of the Sacrifice (Kurban Bayramı)

Most of the dishes are based on the meat of the animal which has been sacrificed. In some areas, the kidneys or liver of the animal strictly fall to the person who slaughtered the animal. Besides this, the most widespread custom is to make kavurma (a sautéed meat dish) on the first day. Other dishes are made in addition to the kavurma. In Gaziantep, stuffed intestine is a special dish for the occasion.

A type of halva is made from the tail fat and eaten at the first meal. In addition to this, another sweet called gerdan tatlısı is made for this feast.

Visitors are also served sweets, coffee etc. similar to those during the Feast of Ramadan.

c) The Month of Muharrem (Aşure Month/Day)

The month of Muharrem is also called Aşure month, after the dish aşure, a special wheat pudding, which is cooked without fail during the month. The aşure is cooked on the 10th or 11th day of Muharrem, and distributed to friends and neighbors, and served to visitors. Especially those who sacrifice an animal must prepare aşure.

The ingredients used in aşure, which is said to have first been made by Noah and his family with the last of all the provisions on the ark after the flood, vary from region to region. In some areas, a piece of the tail fat, or in Zonguldak and Devrek provinces, a piece of the meat is hidden in the aşure.

In Denizli, keşkek as well as aşure is prepared, and distributed with the aşure.

According to Nevin Halıcı, in Uşak there is a tradition of a “Three Pots Invitation” (Üç Tencere Daveti), in which soup, meat and rice is eaten, after which the aşure is served.

Aşure is also made outside of Muharrem as well. In Thrace, aşure is sure to be included in the “Güvey Yemeği,” the meal served in the home of the groom the day after the consummation of the wedding.

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