Turkey National Holidays
Turkey National Holidays, Children’s Day
Turkey celebrates Children’s Day and National Sovereignty Day on the 23rd of April each year. The day is known as Ulusal Egemenlik ve Cocuk Bayrami.
During the War of Independence in 1920, the first National Assembly took place on April 23 and it is said that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk dedicated the new republic to the children of Turkey. Between 1923 and 1934, 23 April started the Grand National Assembly as well as a week dedicated to celebrations for children.
The struggle for independence began on May 19, 1919, leading to the liberation of Anatolia and the international recognition of Turkey borders by the Treaty of Lausanne. The occupation of Izmir by Greece and the atrocities committed against Turkish citizens led to national resistance and, eventually, a war of independence under Ataturk, a young Ottoman military officer.
When the Allies occupied Istanbul and the Ottoman Parliament was disbanded, Atatürk pushed for a new legislative body in Turkey.
Atatürk was named the first president of the Turkish Republic. He determined that there should be no power “above the assembly,” setting the stage for the Republic of Turkey to take over for the Ottoman Empire. The Assembly established an Army that aided in the defeat of the Allied forces and created a secular, democratic republic.
Turkey was the first country to create a holiday dedicated to children. In 1925, the World Conference in Geneva recognised the Turkish holiday and, in 1980, UNICEF created International Children’s Day which is celebrated on 1 June.
Turkey National Holidays, Republic Day
The background of Republic Day is the sultanate form of government of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which ruled from the 1300’s until it joined the Central Powers and was defeated during World War I. This defeat completed a long decline since the 1700’s that had earned the Ottomans the nickname “the Sick Man in Europe” and led to the loss of the Turkish empire.
Immediately after World War I, fighting again erupted in Turkey against the Allies who had occupied Istanbul and Smyrna. This war lasted from 1919 until 1922 and is called the “Turkish War of Independence.” The Greeks were pushed out of western Turkey and the French out of eastern Turkey by September 18th, 1922, and Turkey then turned to internal reforms.
The sultanate was voted out of existence by Turkey’s new parliament on July 24th, 1923, and the country’s name changed to “the Republic of Turkey.” It was not until October 29th of 1923, however, that the new republic was officially declared by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a hero of the Battle of Gallipoli and the main leader of Turkey’s recent “War of Independence.” Atatürk was soon elected the first president of the new republic as well. Also note that the name “Atatürk” (meaning “Father of the Turks”) is not original but was given him by the Turkish parliament in 1934 and denied to all other persons.
For those visiting the land of Turkey during Turkey’s Republic Day, four things that the locals and tourists alike often do to mark the occasion are as follows:
- Attend official celebrations at various key locations. There will be theatrical performances, poetry reading, folk dancing, and more. You can also likely find prominent political figures giving speeches in public places, and if you can’t hear them in person, you may be able to catch them on TV or radio.
- Visit the tomb of president Ataturk in Ankara, where many go on Republic Day to lay down wreaths to honour his memory. The building is made of stone and has a symmetrical layout with numerous tall, square columns. The approach to the tomb is lined with dozens of carved lions, and the immense greenery of Peace Park surrounds the ceremonial plaza.
- In Istanbul, visit Republic Monument in Taksim Square, which commemorates the 1923 founding of the Turkish republic. Atatürk purposefully had sculpted figures of famous Turkish leaders included in the monument because this was forbidden by the Sharia law of the Ottoman Empire. He wanted to make a bold statement that Turkey was now a “secular republic.”
- Later in the evening of the 29th, many localities have parades. There will be music, flag-waving, and much fanfare, and after the parade, you will likely be able to attend a fireworks display.
The transition from an empire to a republic was a radical change for the people of Turkey in the 1920’s, and Republic Day, declared by Ataturk to be “Turkey’s most important holiday,” is a perfect time for tourists to learn of the roots of the modern Turkish state.
Turkey National Holidays, Victory Day
Every August 30th is Victory Day in Turkey, although the holiday is also known as Armed Forces Day.
It is the commemoration of the Turkish victory in the final battle of the 1919 to 1923 Turkish War of Independence. The battle was fought at Dumlupinar against Greek forces in western Turkey between August 26th and 30th. The war itself officially ended on October 29th, 1923, when Turkey was declared a republic and the modern secular state was established.
For over six centuries, Turkey was ruled by the sultans of the Ottoman Empire, who controlled a vast region stretching from Egypt to Russia and from Austria-hungary to Persia. After the Ottoman Empire joined the Axis powers during World War I, however, they ended up losing all but the Turkish homeland. To make matters worse, Allied forces occupied Turkey in 1919, including Greek, Armenian, French, British, and Italian troops. However, for the most part, the Greeks fought alone on the Western Front, the Armenians alone on the Eastern Front, and the French (in Syria) alone on the Southern Front.
Originally, the Battle of Dumlupinar was observed as Victory Day only in cities of western Turkey, such as Izmir, and in Ankara. In 1935, however, it became a national holiday and began to be kept by all Turks throughout the whole country. The main festivities involve military parades, profuse display of Turkey’s flag, and gatherings at various monuments to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern republic. The parades take place in all major cities, and there are often air shows and jets that leave colour trails of red and white to match the colours of the Turkish flag. The mausoleum of Atatürk in Ankara is site to an important ceremony, and pictures of Atatürk are found in many store windows. Also of note is that all military promotions occur on August 30th as do graduation events at military academies.
As Victory Day is a public holiday in Turkey, schools and government buildings will close down, and most private-sector workers will have all or half the day off. However, larger stores and markets stay opened, and public transportation is available, if not on its normal routes and schedules.
Tourists and locals in Turkey on Victory Day will have many activity options, including the following:
See the festivities in Ankara. First, you can see a huge parade of military vehicles, featuring those manufactured in Turkey. This includes ATAK helicopters and Altay tanks, which are pieces of military equipment that Turks take great national pride in. Also, you may wish to stop by the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to see the wreath-laying ceremony.
Tour the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. This was one of the main luxury residences of the sultans for four centuries. Today, it is a museum of the Ottoman Era that is very appropriate to visit on Victory Day, which is associated with that era passing away forever. Inside, you will also find holy relics of Islam, such as the purported sword and coat of Muhammad himself.
Turkey is vast land with many marvels to explore, and it is not possible to see them all in just one day. However, Victory Day is an ideal time to learn about Turkey’s past and present and to enjoy some festive, patriotic activities.
Turkey National Holidays, Youth and Sports Day
Every 19 May, Turkey combines the memory of the founder of the modern independent and secular state and the love of youth and sports into one celebration.
On Youth and Sports Day there are numerous sports events held and attended by great masses throughout the country. And there are also patriotic ceremonies and a focus on independence leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
About 10 days before 19 May, a marathon run by young athletes who carry Turkey flag begins at the Black Sea port of Samsun. That was the city were Atatürk independence movement began. The flag is run up to Ankara, the capital city, and given to the president on Turkey on 19 May.
There are also smaller marathons that everyone is allowed to run in, along with other sports competitions open to the general public.
Some observe 19 May as if it were Atatürk birthday, though his real day of birth is unknown. Wreaths are hung at Atatürk monuments and flags drape buildings throughout the land.