Turkish Folklore and Customs
Turkey has very rich folkloric
traditions which have been kept alive for centuries due to the
characteristics of Turkish people. Folk music accompanies
Anatolian people every single moment of their lives. Every
individual creates his own folk music suitable for his own
situation. People create their own music, and do not write it
down, but pass it from one to the other, and the "asiklar"
(troubadours) who sing and play this music keep it alive.
Turkish folk dance is also very alive and variant. Each region
has its characteristic dance with particular costumes, steps,
rhythms and instruments. Every region's dance reflects the
characteristics of that region's people. Turkish people are very
inventive, creating new dances for different situations. There
are particular dances for weddings, for harvest or for guest
welcoming and so on, "Horon," a very fluid and swift dance, is
particular to the Black Sea Region; "Kasik Oyunu," played with
spoons, is performed in from Konya to Silifke; "Kilic-Kalkan" is
practiced in Bursa in memory of the capture of the city by the
Ottomans; "Zeybek," particular to the Aegean Region, symbolizes
courage and heroism.
There are also some folkloric sports which are also occasions
for celebration. They are very typical and traditional, and it
is recommended that you try to witness some of these; you will
find it really interesting. "Grease Wrestling" (yagli gures) is
the Turkish national sport dating from Ottoman times and every
year in July wrestling championships are held in Kirkpinar,
outside Edirne. The contest is made more difficult by the fact
that the wrestlers smear themselves with oil. The army was kept
in good physical condition by this sport. "Cirit"
(javelin-throwing) is a fast-paced game played on horseback. The
origin of this sport is in Central Asia, where it was developed
by the soldiers in order to improve their fighting skills.
Riders on fast horses throw short javelins to teammates who are
also on horseback. The most important rule is to catch the
javelin while flying. This game is mostly performed in Konya and
Turkish folklore is very much varied, there are some celebrated
characters who reflect the peculiarities of Turkish people.
Nasreddin Hoca is the best-known figure who has many legendary
encounters with kings and common people. While seeming to act
the fool, Nasreddin Hoca actually displays the folly of the
other. Stories about Hoca have varied with the years and with
the interpretation of the storytellers. They mostly begin, "One
day Hoca..." and go on with his adventures.
Other important figures in Turkish folklore are Karagoz and his
friend Hacivat. According to the legend, they were working as
workmen in the construction of Bursa Ulu Mosque. Their satiric
jokes made the sultan very angry and anxious about whether
Karagoz and Hacivat could arouse some thoughts about the abuses
of the, state in the minds of ,others, so they were condemned to
death. The construction of the mosque was completed without
them, but their comrades did not forget them and they kept their
jokes alive, telling them over, and over. In time. the
adventures of Karagoz and Hacivat gained a different extension
and the traditional Turkish shadow puppet theater was born.
Shadow puppets cut from camel hide, painted to look like Karagoz
and Hacivat are held against a wide white cloth and operated as
a strong light shines from behind. Karagoz and Hacivat come to
life again and reached, today, also with the addition of some
new characters. The stories include everything about human
existence, from moral plays to the classic encounters between
husband and wife. Unfortunately, the shadow theaters are not
seen today except in a few places and on some special occasions.
In Bursa, the Karagoz Antique Shop sometimes organizes shadow
puppet theater plays and often has modern duplications of
Karagoz and Hacivat, for sale.
Hospitality is one of the cornerstones of the Turkish way of
life. Turkish people are the most gracious and generous hosts as
a result of their natural instincts. In every corner of the
country such a traditional hospitality will meet you. Every
individual feels bound to honour his guest in the best possible
manner. They will open their houses to every guest with a
smiling face and with all their sincerity give the best seat and
cook the best food for their guest. Turkish. people are very
understanding about foreigners' different customs and they try
to communicate in order to help visitors according to their code
of hospitality. The mentality of that hospitality is "whatever
religion you are from, whichever country you come from, whatever
language you speak, you are 'God's Guest' ," so you deserve to
be welcomed in the best manner.
Coffee-houses ("kahve") are very specific to Turkish people.
Even the smallest village has at least one "kahve." In old times
men used to smoke hubble-bubble pipes ("nargile") while talking
about the matters of the day. You can still smoke "nargile," but
only in some of the coffee-houses. If you ever had a chance to
see a "kahve," especially in Istanbul, do not hesitate to spend
some time in that lovely, authentic place.
Another feature symbolizing the Turkish way of life is the
Turkish Baths ("Hamam"). They have a very important place in
Turkish daily and historical life as a result of the emphasis
placed upon cleanliness by Islam. Since Medieval times public
bath houses have been built everywhere and they retain an
architectural and historical importance. The Turkish way of
bathing in a "hamam" is very healthy and refreshing, so do not
forget to visit a "hamam;" you will not regret it!