Is Halloween hot property in Turkey?
If you’re a UK resident, then the fact it’s next week probably hasn’t escaped your notice.
However, in Turkey, if we’re entirely honest, it’s not such a big deal.
Of course, in areas where the European influence is more pronounced, there will be some evidence of the western tradition.
Bars and restaurants catering for an expat clientele will be staging special party nights and fancy dress competitions on Monday.
But the celebrations are not the result of any home-grown beliefs. Halloween events are largely staged purely for the potential of a commercial return.
Summer is over
However, the fact Halloween also falls on what is usually the last weekend of the summer season certainly helps. It adds an “end-of-term” atmosphere to events which often double as a final fling for businesses closing for the winter.
The result can be an evening of riotous fun. Everyone tends to let their hair down for one last time before dispersing until the spring.
However, for more traditional Turks, the focus will be on this weekend. Saturday sees celebrations to mark Republic Day – the 99th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic.
But that’s not to say there are no superstitions about things that go bump in the night at all. It’s just that they don’t usually coincide with the West.
In Turkey, some regions – certainly those with a strong Ottoman heritage – celebrate Bocuk Night, which is somewhat similar. However, events are usually timed to coincide with the coldest night of the year in January – similar to Twelfth Night.
The focus every year is on the village of Çamlıca, located in the Thracian district of Keşan in northern Turkey. Here, people will dress in white sheets, paint their faces or wear scary masks. They then prowl the area banging on their neighbours’ doors and windows.
The tradition harks back to a superstition that the coldest night is the result of a split in dimensions when evil spirits escape from the realm of the dead and enter our world.
The “Bocuk” are these witches and warlocks who will feed on livestock – unless you can ward them off with sweet desserts made from pumpkin. Of course, eating some yourself also protects you from being assailed by Bocuk too.
Those dressing up are supposed represent the Bocuk but the whole event is still fun. The essential message is not one of fear but that a community can defeat winter’s coldest nights by helping each other to stay warm and by feasting.
Indeed, the belief is that, just by meeting regularly, neighbours can help to protect the natural order of things so that trees bear fruit, livestock stay healthy and chickens keep laying eggs.
So, if you’re planning a new life in Turkey or if this is your first winter, don’t feel you have to stock up on gifts for children doing “trick or treat”. After all, it’s largely an American tradition which hasn’t spread this far east just yet.
Nevertheless, if you’ve just moved to Turkey and want to make a few friends, you could always buy some pumpkin down at the market and get some baking done. Handing out the results to your neighbours could help lay the foundations which you can build on as the rest of the year goes by.
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