It’s the start of another year and time to makes plans, organise your life and if you’re like me, look forward to the next holiday break. Once again there are lots of Turkish national public holidays coming up, and on these days banks, administration offices, schools, government offices and some businesses are closed. Although government and many private museums are closed, tourist centres such as Istanbul, Antalya, Izmir and Bodrum can be extremely busy as many Turks take the opportunity to have a short break. This is especially the case when the holiday is being held to celebrate a religious occasion. During the two main ones, Şeker Bayramı and Kurban Bayram, it’s obligatory for family members to visit one another, so interstate flights, buses and trains will be heavily booked. If you’re planning to travel to Turkey during these periods it’s advisable to book interstate flights, buses, tours and accommodation well in advance. If you’re coming to Turkey from overseas, click here to learn what information you need to buy an e-visa online and instructions on how to get one (my post includes a link to the official Turkish government evisa website). If you do plan to drive, remember the roads are busier than usual so take care.
My list of Turkish national public holidays for 2018 includes international public holidays, important dates in the nation’s history and major religious events. While it’s mostly business as usual on religious days in Turkey, during the Holy Month of Ramazan it can be difficult to find restaurants open for lunch, in daylight hours, outside of the major city centres. To help you work around possible complications I’ve included religious dates in italics.
1 January: New Year’s Day
22 March: Regaip Kandili
13 April: Miraç Kandili
23 April: National Sovereignty and Children’s Day1
30 April: Berat Kandili
1 May: Labour and Solidarity Day2
16 May: Holy month of Ramazan begins
19 May: Commemoration of Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day3
10 June: Kadir Gecesi
14 June: Şeker Bayram Arife Günü – Religious half day holiday before Şeker Bayramı. This is a gazetted half day off but most employees in private businesses work the full day.
15 June – 17 June: Şeker Bayramı (also known as Ramazan Bayramı) – a feast of chocolates and sweets.
15 July: Democracy and National Solidarity Day4
20 August: Kurban Bayram Arife Günü – Religious half day holiday before Kurban Bayramı. This is a gazetted half day off but most employees in private businesses work the full day.
21 August – 24 August: Sacrifice (Kurban Bayramı) Feast
30 August: Victory Day5 (Zafer Bayramı)
20 September: Aşure Günü
28 October: Republic Day Arife. Half day holiday before Republic Day. This is a gazetted half day off but most employees in private businesses work the full day.
29 October: Republic Day6
19 November: Mevlid Kandili
- National Sovereignty & Children’s Day
Solemn ceremonies and children’s festivals take place throughout Turkey on National Sovereignty and Children’s Day (Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı), held on April 23 each year. This commemoration of the first opening of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey at Ankara in 1920 sees children take seats in the Turkish Parliament and symbolically govern the country for one day. Elsewhere school children march in unison, bearing the Turkish flag, people attend local ceremonies or lay wreaths at monuments of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.
- Labour and Solidarity Day
In Turkey, Labour and Solidarity Day (Emek ve Dayanışma Günü), internationally known as May Day, is an occasion for people to celebrate improvements in working conditions and to demand better conditions for skilled labourers and union workers. In recent years peaceful demonstrations have turned ugly, and in Istanbul much of the public transport system is shut down to prevent large gatherings. It’s wise to plan your movements accordingly.
- Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day
Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day (Atatürk’ü Anma Gençlik ve Spor Bayramı) includes state ceremonies and sports events throughout the country on May 19 each year. Although the exact date of Atatürk’s birth isn’t known, many Turks celebrate May 19 as his birthday, because Atatürk used to say he was born on that day. Many people lay wreaths on his monuments and hang Turkish flags featuring his profile from their windows.
- Democracy and National Solidarity Day
On July 15, 2016 a failed coup took place which resulted in the deaths of at least 241 people, including seven civilians who were shot dead as they resisted the coup forces near the Akıncı air force base north of Ankara. In the immediate aftermath of the coup, a number of structures and public spaces were renamed, most notably Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge, which was retitled the “July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge.”
- Victory Day
Victory Day (Zafer Bayramı) commemorates the crucial Turkish victory against Greek forces in the Battle of Dumlupınar (August 26-30, 1922). The outcome of this battle helped determine the overall outcome of the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923). Shops, public offices, hotels and people’s houses are awash with Turkish flags, and military parades and ceremonies at monuments to Atatürk are held.
- Republic Day
Republic Day (Cumhuriyet Bayramı) marks the creation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. The Turkish parliament proclaimed the new Turkish state a republic after the nation’s victory in the War of Independence. A new constitution was adopted on October 29, 1923, replacing the constitution of the Ottoman Empire. On the same day Mustafa Kemal Atatürk became the country’s first president. On Republic Day people go to theatre, poetry and traditional Turkish dance performances dedicated to the Republic of Turkey. Parades are held in some towns and cities, people lay wreaths in memory of Atatürk and in the evening many cities hold traditional processions with flags and musical bands, ending the night with firework displays.
You can find out more about life in Turkey in my book “Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries“.