Kandils are special days commemorating major events in the life of the Prophet Mohammed: his conception, birth, receiving of the Koran, his ascent into heaven, and his death. In most regions, certain sweets are made and distributed on each Kandil, but in some areas, the first Kandil is celebrated but nothing in particular is done for the second or thirds unless there are special local traditions. The second Kandil is the Miraç Kandil, the commemoration of the ascent. In Izmir and Denizli, milk is distributed on this Kandil.
A sweet known as lokum or lokma is made in almost every region and distributed among friends and neighbors. Halva is as common as lokma for distribution.
In Zonguldak and Devrek, a börek with walnuts is prepared and distributed in front of the mosque. The Kandil çöreks/simits, with or without sesame which are common today are another food especially associated with the Kandils.
2. Seasonal Festivals and Special Days
Generally celebrated on May 5-6, Hıdrellez is a seasonal festival which celebrates the coming of spring, the waking up of nature, and includes certain customs which people peform with the hope of having their wishes granted.
On that day, people go into the country, and special items placed into a clay pot are drawn out as wishes are made and manis or quatrains, are sung.
In addition to all this, certain foods are prepared especially for Hıdrellez, and taken into the country, where people celebrate, dance and eat together. Generally these are easy-to-transport dishes. Lettuce salad, boiled eggs, stuffed grape leaves, bükme, çörek, börek,layered bread with tahini, ribs, a dish made from roasted wheat flour and gözleme (stuffed thin pancake) are examples of such foods. In some areas an animal is slaughtered, andkavurma and pilaf is made from its meat.
In Muğla and Izmir, milk is drunk with the belief that it is curative, and it is considered good to eat greens.
b) Nevruz (Spring Equinox)
In most of our regions, this celebration, known also as Sultan Nevruz, has a religious side. On this quite widespread celebration, people go into the country as well as to cemeteries to pray for the dead.
In Sivas and in Denizli, it is traditional to eat foods that begin with the letter “s” (or “sin” in the old Arabo-Persian script). This may include süt (milk), simit (bread rings), things withsusam (sesame), soğan (onion), sarımsak (garlic), salatalık (cucumber), sucuk (sausage), su(water) etc. In Sivas, care is taken that these be seven in number. It is also traditional to eat greens on this day.
c) Kiraz Bayramı (Cherry Festival)
The cherry festival, which we find in Isparta province, lasts from the end of May until mid-June. During this time, those who have cherry orchards invite friends, neighbors and relatives, where they celebrate and pass the time. The orchard serves his guests çömlek kebabı (meat cooked in a clay pot) and pilaf with meat. Halfway through the meal, a sweet is eaten, and then pilaf again.
d) Yoğurt Bayramı (Yogurt Festival)
The yogurt festival is held when sheep are milked for the first time after their lambs are weaned.
The first milk is either made into yogurt, or distributed as is. Flock owners take their relatives and friends into the country, where they slaughter a lamb, a chicken or a turkey. Foods include pilaf, zerde (a saffron pudding) and sherbets, which are eaten with the first yogurt. In Mardin, hedik, a dish made from mashed meat, potatoes and eggplant, is made and passed out to children.
e) İlin Ayın Ahırı (“The Last Month of the Year”)
In the village of Dileme near Kars, the evening of January 13 is considered to be the eve of the new year. Rice pudding is cooked in amounts appropriate to the number of guests, and a coin is put into it; the belief is that whoever finds the coin will be lucky that year. Along with the rice pudding, an overly salty çörek called “Tuzdu-Gilik” or “Tuzlu Kılık” is eaten. Young people who eat it, save a piece and put it under their pillows when they go to bed. They get thirsty, and whoever appears in their dream to give them water is believe to be the one they will marry. If nobody appears to give them water, in the morning they take the piece of çörek that was under the pillow and give it to the birds. Whatever direction the bird that eats it flies, it is believed that they will marry someone from that direction – if the bird flies far, then it will be someone from far away; if a short distance, then it will be someone from nearby.
f) Koç Katımı (Releasing of the Rams)
This is a common tradition among those who are engaged in animal husbandry; the time changes according to the region.
The rams are released among the ewes. The flock owner who releases his rams make pide, hedik, ribs and baklava, and buy sweets and fruits. Those of sufficient means slaughter an animal which they boil whole in a large kettle, and serve to those who come for the occasion. In Malatya, the meat is put between two layers of dough and cooked into a dish called kömbe, which is distributed to guests.
g) Çiğdem Eğlenceleri (Crocus Celebrations)
This festival is celebrated in Yozgat and Çorum. A celebration of the coming of spring, it is celebrated mostly by children. The children go into the fields and collect whole crocus plants. Their yellow flowers and corms (bulbs) are cooked into a kind of pilaf, which is said to be especially delicious. The children take the pilaf out into the fields and eat it there.