Thanksgiving in Turkey: Celebrating the country’s culture of gratitude


This Thursday, November 25 is a small, old-fashioned holiday called Thanksgiving, which is celebrated in the United States as a time to feast with the family and to meditate on all that one is grateful for. It is a tradition in the United States that a meal of roast turkey and various beloved accessories takes place on the third Thursday in November. An integral custom of celebrating this holiday is for each member at the table to express out loud and in turn what they are grateful for this year. What a pity that this tradition is limited to only once a year for most people in the west, because here in Turkey expressing gratitude in all its forms is very common.

In Turkey, most religious holidays are actually centered around the concept of gratitude. Those with a certain high financial status will donate to the less fortunate on the most important days of the year in the country, whether for Ramadan Bayram, also known as Eid al-Fitr, or the holiday. of sacrifice (Qurban Bayram), not to mention the many qandils (kandil). It is suggested to give wealth percentages to those who can afford it, and many households prepare special holiday treats which they distribute to their neighbors. All of these actions are filled with the feeling of gratitude, of being aware of all that you have and willingly sharing it with others. Even the one-month fast of Ramadan is done so that people better understand the value of the food that is readily available to us. In other words, Turks love to give thanks and are very willing to suffer for it!

Here in Turkey there is even a tradition of holding large outdoor banquets to celebrate certain milestones and achievements in life, called “hayır”. These celebrations are usually hosted by a household or business for events such as buying or building a house, starting a business, or sending a son into the military. While action can be a gift, the reason behind it is actually to express gratitude and protect the beauty of whatever is commemorated, whether it be a person, place or thing.

Expressing gratitude is part of everyday speech

Unlike the English language, in Turkish there are a lot of words used to express thanks and gratitude and they are used fervently. To simply thank you, in Turkish there are several options. TeÅŸekkür ederim, saÄŸolun, ellerinize saÄŸlık, şükür, eksik olma, kesene bereket, eyvallah … some even use the French expression merci!

There are also a multitude of words in Turkish to express gratitude. For example, you have şükür etmek, minettarlik, gönül borcu, kadirÅŸinaslık, deÄŸerbilirlilik, and iyilikbilirlik to name a few, the latter two almost serving as tongue twisters. Then, of course, there is the concept of “Ma’allah”, which best translates as “Praise be to Allah”. Saying this word is a method regularly used by Turks to safeguard and protect what is of value. For example, when greeting a newborn baby, a Turk will always say “MaÅŸallah” and may even go so far as to pull on the lobe of his ear, kiss in the air or touch wood, all actions aimed at preserve what someone is grateful for. .

The practice of hanging up or putting on an evil eye, aka ‘nazar boncuÄŸu’, is also a regular practice, as Turkey’s famous opaque blue glass beads with a white eye are specially designed for protection, which resides in the regular recognition of what is precious and dear to our lives.

So in essence the whole mindset in Turkey is very much about gratitude, a feeling that is practiced regularly in everyday life here. Having said that, this is one of the main reasons I look forward to and grateful to be in Turkey.

A panoramic view of the province of MuÄŸla. (Photo Shutterstock)

Top five reasons to be grateful to Turkey

1. Turks are the most grateful, thoughtful and open group of people there is. Recognized for their hospitality, their emotivity and their spontaneity, they have a certain joie de vivre and can live the moment with ease and embrace the evolutions that take place with grace and tireless enthusiasm.

2. It is so easy to have a healthy lifestyle in Turkey. From walking to dancing, the Turks are an active group. In many towns and villages in Turkey, people can easily go without cars and navigate the characteristic roads and places on their own and as Turks do. Turkish cuisine is revered around the world and its genre categorized as a Mediterranean diet has proven to have immense mental and physical benefits. This diet has proven to be the best for preventing depression and helping with weight loss. In addition, the fact that food is consumed seasonally here means that in Turkey we consume products at their peak of nutritional value and we can easily and inexpensively purchase our fresh food at the weekly farmers markets held in every city in Turkey.

3. Turkey is incredibly beautiful. From the magnificent cultural capital of Istanbul straddling two continents coupled with a fairytale silhouette of minarets and churches dating back to the dawn of time to the country’s capital, an elegant, comfortable and easily accessible city with parks . The south coast known as the “Turkish Riviera” is stunning, as are the fairy chimneys and the alien skyline of Cappadocia. Then there’s the east, a fascinating mix of cultures and remnants of ancient civilizations, including huge head sculptures. The region of the Seven Lakes and the Black Sea is a whole other picturesque painting of unique beauty and culture. There are unique flora and fauna, thermal springs, waterfalls, spectacular mountain ranges for skiing, some of the best destinations in the world for paragliding, hot air ballooning, windsurfing and kitesurfing. There are some amazing historical trails for hiking and horseback riding. Plus, one can do all of these things by easily boarding boats of all sizes, taking trains, buses, planes, etc. As you can see the list goes on, but there is definitely enough adventure here to fill anyone’s bucket list.

4. Having housed several civilizations and empires, including one of the most powerful in the world, there is ancient wisdom in Turkey that applies to everyday life. From the philosophies of the Stoics to deep verses from the Quran and divine scholars such as Rumi, to the nomadic culture and rural life inherent in villages, there is so much to learn. From herbal remedies to special ceremonies and amulets, so many elements of the Turkish way of life contain ancestral knowledge.

5. The Turks are a resilient group and come together to help each other when needed. There is even a concept here in Turkey called ‘imece’ where people offer their services just to help. Turks don’t tend to complain or show pain and pride themselves on not being phased by challenges. Like the Stoics who thrived on this land and the nomads who followed, recognizing what is good in their lives and accepting and adapting to adapt to what is not or simply moving on and starting over is all in the making. normal here for the Turks!

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