a) Agreement (Söz Kesme)
In Turkey, the process leading up to marriage has three stages, the söz kesme(promise/agreement between the families), the nişan (engagement) and finally the wedding itself. At the söz kesme, the first main things in mind are “sweetness” (agreement, good relationship) between the families, and that things move on to a favorable end. For this reason, it is common to serve sherbets (sweetened fruit drinks). Sweet coffee, lokum and candy is also served. In Denizli, in order to reinforce the idea, a hot sherbet is served, so that no “coldness” will come between the couple. In Izmir, a rose sherbet (gül şerbeti) is served, so that the couple will always smile and be happy. (This is a word play – the word “gül” in Turkish means both “rose” and “laugh/smile.”) In Eskişehir, the announcement of a marriage promise is announced by the giving of halkalı şeker (A ring-shaped candy) and cigarettes. In some areas, foods such as a special pilaf (söz pilavı), an egg dish, kadayıf and fruit are eaten.
The desire for “sweetness” which characterizes the agreement continues in the engagement as well. The custom of an engagement dinner is more common. Among the foods served are lamb, stuffed chicken, rice pilaf and bulgur pilaf with chickpeas. In one of the villages near Çankırı, typical engagement dishes include a dish called göğlü aş, made with wheat and dried fruit leather. In Eskişehir, flour halvah is also served.
In some areas, a candy known as nöbet şekeri (watch/guard candy) is broken over the bride’s head. Whoever eats it will have health and good fortune, and be free of headaches or toothaches.
c) Bridal Bath (Gelin Hamamı)
The foods served for the bridal bath tend to be dry foods that are easy to take to the hamam. Foods served may include çöreks, böreks, meatless stuffed vegetables, kebab, poppyseed pide, halvah etc. Other foods may include nuts and cookies.
d) Henna Night
The night before the wedding, the bride’s palms are filled with henna and her hands are bound; this is known as henna night. The serving of food has a very important place on the henna night. The foods include pilaf, meat dishes, noodle soup with chickpeas, rusks, and poppyseed pide. The sweets include lokma, koz helva, zerde, rice pudding and halvah.
In some areas, sweets are served to assure a sweet tongue; in others nuts and fruit are served. In Izmir, the nöbet şekeri is broken over the bride’s head; in Zonguldak and Devrek, bread is broken and distributed among those in attendance. In other regions, this same tradition is performed on the henna night, for the same purpose.
e) Other States of the Wedding
The most-prepared food at weddings is keşkek. It is said that you can’t have a wedding without keşkek. Rice pilaf and meat are also popular at weddings. Other foods that may be prepared are beans, potatoes, chickpeas cooked with meat, okra, meat cooked in a casserole, böreks and various stuffed vegetables.
The most common sweet is zerde, a pudding flavored with saffron. Other sweets include compost, baklava, halvah, rice pudding.
f) Night of Consummation (Gerdek Gecesi)
This is usually a meal, prepared by the bride’s family and sent to the in-laws, is eaten only by the bride and groom after the bride emerges.
At these meals, chicken is very common. In Kütahya stuffed lamb is sent.
Along with the chicken they send dishes such as pilaf, börek and çörek. The most common sweet is baklava, but there may also be halvah, cookies and sherbet. Although the consummation dinner does not include a great number of dishes, the dishes served are more or less the same throughout the country.
When a meal is served on the occasion of a circumcision, there is quite a wealth of dishes. The foods served at weddings generally are present at circumcisions as well. Keşkek and rice pilaf are common. Düğün çorbası (wedding soup) and other soups such as toyga çorbası(banquet soup), hamurlu nohut çorbası (chickpea soup with dumplings), yogurt soup andbamya çorbası (okra soup) are the most common. Common main dishes include meat with chickpeas, meat in a casserole, meat with iç pilav, eggplant, okra, beans, börek, çerpeleme et, and üzlemeçli pilaf. Out of concern for the health of the newly-circumcised boy, the “water dishes” are not much served.
5. Rain Prayers
Gradually disappearing, the rain prayer is a ceremony performed when rain has not fallen for a long period. After the necessary traditions (which include the sacrifice of an animal), have been performed in order to bring rain, the meat of the sacrificed animals is cooked into pilav in large cauldrons and served to those who participated in the ceremony. The pilav is mostly made from bulgur. The lamb or mutton is either boiled or fried and eaten along with the pilaf. It is not certain whether the meal is considered to reinforce the practices performed in order to bring the rain.
Sometimes the rain prayers are performed by children. The children collect oil, flour and bulgur, while singing quatrains. Pilaf and a type of oily çörek is made from the ingredients collected. The children go out into the fields to eat the food.
In conclusion, the foods eaten on special days are generally expressions of the meaning of the days on which they are eaten. They are eaten as a means to the desired end.
The most obvious example of this is the eating of sweets with the desire to achieve a “sweet” and good outcome.
Special days tend to be celebrated with heavy, rich foods.
It has also been determined that it determines the type of foods eaten on the special day.