Called Eid el-Adha, Eid Al Adha or Eid el-Kebir in Arabic, Kurban Bayramı (Also known as Sacrifice Feast), which starts on 10 Zilhicce (Dhul-hijja) in the Islamic lunar Hijri calendar, is the most important Islamic religious festival of the year for the Muslim world, celebrating Ibrahim's (Abraham) devotion to God.
Families gather together, share meals, stories, pay respect to elders, and join the Eid prayer. Sacrificed animal meat is donated to friends, neighbors, and people experiencing poverty. Most Turkish people travel to their hometowns, leaving big cities and most tourist attractions empty.
It is also a four or five-day public holiday in Turkey, meaning governmental offices, banks, some supermarkets, and restaurants will be closed during the holiday time.
How is Kurban Bayram Celebrated?
Kurban Bayramı can be very joyous to witness in Turkey. Almost like Thanksgiving, families gather, spend time, and hold ample feasts together. If you are anywhere around one of these family feasts, you may even be invited to share in the bounty, as I was in Eastern Turkey: see the Eastern Sacrifice story in Bright Sun, Strong Tea. Take the chance if you get it.
It is also the time of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca (Haj). Many people travel to their hometowns to visit their elders and pay respect. So, domestic and international travel will be very intense during Kurban Bayramı in Turkey. All this rush may affect your travel plans, so be prepared for it. (Here are the dates.) However, it doesn't mean you shouldn't go to Turkey, and tourism doesn't come to a halt during Kurban Bayramı. So, as long as you're prepared, it should be fun!
How to Plan Around Kurban Bayramı in Turkey
To ensure your plans will not be affected while visiting Turkey during Kurban Bayramı, you should have a plan. Here's what to do:
Step 1. Since international and domestic travel will be very heavy, try not to travel on the first or last days of the Kurban Bayram. If you can avoid traveling the day before and the day after these dates, that's probably good too.
Step 2. Since many people will go to their hometowns and beaches, hotels will be fully reserved. So, have a hotel reservation as early as possible.
Step 4. Know what is working and not working during the Kurban Bayramı.
Banks & Businesses Closures
Most banks, businesses, and government offices are closed for five days or longer, so you should stock up prior to the start of the holiday on Turkish lira cash and any supplies you may need.
Shops and bazaars tend to be closed on the first day of the holiday, but some, if not most, will re-open after the first day. Major museums, such as Topkapı Palace, are closed in the morning on the first day but may be open at 1 pm if it is not their weekly closing day. A few shops and businesses stay open even on the first day to provide essentials. Some restaurants are also open.
Public transport continues to run and is heavily used. Even though extra capacity (more trains, ferries, etc.) is added to the schedules; planes, trains, buses, and hotels will likely be severely crowded during the holiday period. Only in Istanbul, more than 2200 buses depart the Istanbul International Bus Terminal in Esenler daily at the beginning of the holiday, with Turks off on vacation or to visit friends and family members, so avoid traveling or have iron-clad reservations and be prepared for delay and inconvenience.
If you are looking for the easiest transportation option during this time, we recommend booking a private transfer, renting a car, or using a taxi as much as possible.
History and Biblical Tradition of Kurban Bayramı
The festival celebrates the Biblical and Qur'anic accounts of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son on Mount Moriah, proving Abraham's complete obedience to God. In the story, God stays Abraham's hand at the last moment and provides a ram for the sacrifice instead, praising Abraham for his faithfulness.
Following this tradition, the head of each Turkish household hopes to sacrifice a sheep or other food animal on the morning of the first day of the holiday period to prove their devotion to God. A lavish meal is made from the meat, friends and family are invited to Feast, and the excess meat and the hide are donated to charity.
You may see authorized sacrifice abattoirs (kurban kesme yerleri) in fields outside of cities. City governments establish these special areas for the sacrifice of animals under sanitary conditions. Sacrificing animals outside of these areas is illegal.
Because the main purpose of the sacrifice is charity, many Muslims—especially those living in large cities—choose to donate money rather than perform the sacrifice, a substitution allowed in Turkish Islam.
Experience the Lively Atmosphere of Kurban Bayramı in Turkey
Kurban Bayramı is one of the biggest religious holidays in Turkey. Families get together to share meals, stories and spend time. It is almost like Thanksgiving in Turkey.
A great feast is prepared for Kurban Bayramı, and the sacrificed animal's meat is shared among friends, neighbors, and low-income people. It is an important holiday to remember family and friends.
If you ever get the chance, try exploring Turkey's Kurban Bayramı and the hospitality of Turkish people.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Kurban Bayrami
People sacrifice animals in Sacrifice Holiday and share an animal with friends, family, charity, and poor people.