National Sovereignty and Children’s Day in Turkey

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On the 23rd of April every year, the streets of Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and other large cities, towns and villages across Turkey will be full of local school children. Decked out in brightly clean school uniforms, with the neatest hair and straightest socks, they march proudly alongside fire trucks, police marching bands and other municipal vehicles. Songs about the Turkish Republic are sung, famous moments from modern Turkish history are re-enacted and small boys recite poetry as loudly as humanly possible.

Known as Ulusal Egemenlik ve Çocuk Bayramı, National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, it was gazetted as a public holiday in honour of the first ever gathering of the Grand National Assembly (the Turkish Parliament), which took place on this day in 1920. Ataturk dedicated the Turkish Republic to children, and starting from 1923, a whole week was put aside to promote activities for them. Even now, Turkish schoolchildren take seats in parliament for the day, elect their own leader and govern the country and even ‘fly’ planes belonging to government-owned Turkish Airlines. Since 1979 the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) has run a Children’s Festival, bringing children from different countries to Turkey to experience Turkish hospitality and appear in gala performances on April 23.

Ataturk statue commemorating teaching in Kadikoy

I once went to my local neighbourhood of Kadıköy, intending to catch a ferry to the other side, but was side-tracked by the sight of hundreds of children dressed in traditional costume, whirling and spinning and running around excitedly, waiting for their turn to be photographed. Dance troupes were positioned in front of a statue showing Atatürk teaching the new Turkish alphabet to a group of children. At his feet lay bouquets of flowers and sombre wreaths, left by local dignitaries and businessmen earlier in the day, at one of the many ceremonies dedicated to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. The biggest ceremony takes place at the Ataturk Mausoleum in Ankara.

If you’re in Turkey on April 23, do look out for celebrations happening in your location. I’m sure you’ll enjoy them. Here’s my post about all the other Turkish National Public Holidays.


Planning to come to Istanbul or Turkey? Here are my helpful tips for planning your trip.

For FLIGHTS I like to use Kiwi.com.

Don’t pay extra for an E-VISA. Here’s my post on everything to know before you take off.

However E-SIM are the way to go to stay connected with a local phone number and mobile data on the go. Airalo is easy to use and affordable.

Even if I never claim on it, I always take out TRAVEL INSURANCE. I recommend Visitors Coverage.

I’m a big advocate of public transport, but know it’s not suitable for everyone all the time. When I need to be picked up from or get to Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport, I use one of these GetYourGuide website AIRPORT TRANSFERS.

ACCOMMODATION: When I want to find a place to stay I use Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: Let me guide you around Kadikoy with my audio walking tour Stepping back through Chalcedon or venture further afield with my bespoke guidebook Istanbul 50 Unsung Places. I know you’ll love visiting the lesser-known sites I’ve included. It’s based on using public transport as much as possible so you won’t be adding too much to your carbon footprint. Then read about what you’ve seen and experienced in my three essay collections and memoir about moving to Istanbul permanently.

Browse the GetYourGuide website or Viator to find even more ways to experience Istanbul and Turkey with food tours, visits to the old city, evening Bosphorus cruises and more!

However you travel, stay safe and have fun! Iyi yolculuklar.

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