Like other Muslim countries, Turkey is preparing for a subdued Eid given that much of the country will still be under lockdown due to the pandemic.
Turkey is accustomed to enthusiastic Eid celebrations, characterised by big family gatherings, a ritual that dates back all the way to the Ottoman era.
In previous, more normal years, the approach to Eid would see millions of people decamp from their homes in cities to native hometowns. It all meant they would celebrate Eid together with their family members.
Ordinarily, markets would be full of excited parents and happy children, and people would indulge in typical Eid shopping. But this time around, due to the pandemic, the traditionally-festive Eid mood is subdued, though shops still appear busy with people - albeit masked customers.
“Ramadan itself was a different Ramadan,” said Kamil Buyuker, an author and academic at Yozgat Bozok University. “We have gotten through an extraordinary Ramadan. The pandemic has created new normals and the Eid’s wry atmosphere will be one of our new normals.”
Buyuker currently lives with his parents in Turkey’s central Anatolian city of Yozgat, while his wife and kids live in Istanbul. He won’t be with his wife and kids forEid this year.
“I will feel something dearly missing at the time of the Eid,” Buyuker told TRT World.
But, like others, he will turn to technology to exchange Eid (bayram) greetings face-to-face with his family members and other loved ones, hoping and praying that an Eid under curfew will never have to be repeated again.
In Turkey, like several other Muslim countries, countrywide Eid prayers have been cancelled, as has been the case for Friday prayers since March.
“Since the Prophet Muhammed’s time, we have not known any time when Muslims could not practice their Friday and Eid prayers, which should be held in a congregational manner, according to experts,” said Buyuker, a former imam, who has been part of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs for over two decades.
“The essence of these prayers rests on their congregational nature. But Islam prioritises health, which determines the degree of a decent human lifee, over all other concerns,” Buyuker stressed.
A sad Eid?
Even though some are being stoic, the absence of social interactions on Eid still makes a lot of people unhappy.
Ilhan Azakli, a 48-year-old private exam centre manager in Istanbul’s Uskudar, on the Asian side of the city, is one of them.
“On Eid, I could not hug my loved ones,“ Azakli said in a sad voice.
“We are an emotional nation. We love to hug each other, not only during Eid but also all the time. But this pandemic has separated people from each other, breaking our general psychological balance,” Azakli told TRT World.
Like Buyuker, Azakli will also use video calls to exchange Eid greetings with his parents, who live in Turkey’s Black Sea province of Ordu.
But some, this Eid, are being even more inventive than this.
In Turkey’s eastern province of Agri, a group of students surprised their teacher, visiting him just before Eid, to exchange greetings. This overrules the Eid lockdown rules, according to Dogan Alperen, a 54-year-old financial advisor, who is based in Istanbul’s Atasehir.
“The teacher asked them why they came to his house. They said because there will be curfew on Eid, they wanted to come earlier to exchange eid greetings,” says Alperen, who is originally from Agri.
“While they are first grade students in a primary school, they were able to come up with a resolution to enjoy their Eid,” Alperen told TRT World.
But he still thinks that the absence of Eid and Friday prayers along with the upcoming celebrations under the current curfew, will forever mark 2020 as a year of sadness.
“It will be a sad Eid,” he said.
Tradesman Ali Yildirim, a 48-year-old devout Muslim who lives in Istanbul, also expresses his sadness at the lack of traditional celebrations this year.
His wife, a Canadian citizen, along with his children, are living in Canada. He is considering a move there himself but is currently awaiting the completion of his application process.
Yildirim lives alone and won't be able to visit his parents in Turkey's western province of Manisa during Eid. In the past, he would have spent Eid with his parents most of the time.
“Even when I was staying in Istanbul, I had gone to Istanbul's old big mosques to feel the spirit of Eid. This time I could not do that either, making me very sad,” says Yildirim of the mosques’ closures across the country.
“You could not feel the Eid atmosphere,” he told TRT World.
Haci Rifat Yilmaz, a businessman of Kurdish descent and a native of Diyarbakir, a city in Turkey’s southeastern region, is eager to look at a curfew-limited Eid optimistically, seeing the virus as a test from God.
“We should not make it a big deal not to celebrate Eid with our normal social interactions,” Yilmaz told TRT World.
“We have had so many happy and good Eids in a communal sense in the past. Let this one pass under curfew. It’s ok,” Yilmaz advised.