The Bridge of the Cultures: Turkey

Azra Emeksiz

My name is Azra Emeksiz. I am an international exchange student from Turkey. Before I talk about Turkish culture, I wanna talk about culture in general. Why is it so important to us? Let’s talk about the definition of culture. Culture is a reflection of a community or nation, and it is a strong part of people’s lives. It influences their views, their values, their humor, their hopes, their loyalties, their worries, and fears. So when you are working with people and building relationships with them, it helps to have some perspective and understanding of their cultures.

Turkey has a very diverse culture that is a blend of various elements of the Oğuz Turkic and Anatolian, Ottoman (which was itself a continuation of both Greco-Roman and Islamic cultures), and Western culture and traditions which started with the Westernization of the Ottoman Empire and continues today. Turkey is the only country in the world that is in two continents: Asia and Europe. Culturally,  Turkey sits between East and West, drawing elements from both to produce its own unique blend. So I wanted to share some interesting, different things about my country that I realized after I came here. Let’s talk about them, shall we?

KNOCKING ON WOOD

This superstition stems from an old Pagan belief that spirits live in trees, and if you knocked on the tree, you were seeking the help from the good spirits, or making sure the bad spirits couldn’t hear you, and cause you harm. This tradition is done when you think something bad is going to happen. You pull one of your earlobes and knock on something that is made of wood. We believe that this is going to protect us from bad things. 

READING COFFEE CUPS AS FORTUNES

Turkish coffee first appeared in the Ottoman Empire and is an indispensable element of Turkish culture. It plays an important part in ceremonies and festivals. Turkish coffee is a style of coffee prepared in a cezve using very finely ground coffee beans without filtering. Tasseography is a fortune-telling method that interprets patterns in tea leaves, coffee grounds, and even wine sediments. For centuries, the art of reading Turkish coffee grounds has been a tradition in countries that prefer Turkish coffee. 


Turkish Coffee Reading: Introduction to Turkish Coffee Fortune Telling - Turkish BOX

 

EVIL EYE BEAD 

One of Turkey’s most popular souvenirs, these blue eyes made of glass are actually meant to ward off the negative energy from the eyes of someone who feels envious of you. The evil eye is blue because according to superstition, blue eyes give off the most negative energy, and the glass eye is supposed to cancel it out. Traditionally, evil eyes are pinned onto newborn babies’ clothes as well as hung above doors in houses and businesses for protection against bad luck.

 

The Origin Of The Evil Eye - Moon Wandering

 

HIDRELLEZ

Hıdrellez is one of the seasonal festivals of the entire Turkish world. Hıdrellez Day, which is known as Ruz-ı Hızır (day of Hızır), is celebrated as the day on which Prophets Hızır and Ilyas met with each other on the earth. The words Hızır and İlyas have since fused together, pronounced as Hıdrellez. Giving alms, fasting, and offering animals as a sacrifice are traditions in some parts of Anatolia to make prayers and wishes come true. Sacrifices and votive offerings should be for “the sake of Hızır.” Hıdrellez celebrations are always performed in green, wooded places, near sources of water, or near a tomb or shrine. Various practices are performed on Hıdrellez night in the belief that Hızır will bring blessing and abundance to the places he visits. Food bowls, pantries, and purses are left open. Those who want a house, vineyard or garden believe that Hızır will help them obtain these things if they make a small model of what they want. Wishes, prayers, and money are also written on paper and tied to a rose bush. Sometimes colorful pieces of cloth are used. Hıdrellez is a joyful celebration and everyone will either play music or dance. Leading up to the exciting fire-jumping ritual which takes place late at night.

 

Spring Celebration: Hıdırellez in Türkiye - GoTürkiye

 

We are all a part of our cultures, whether we want it or not. We must represent it as best as we can, and most importantly, we must respect all the cultures. I tried to do my best as a cultural ambassador. Culture in general is like a flood of light; it is made of  millions of subjects getting together, and you can think of me as a mirror. After all, we don’t only see the reflection of ourselves when we look in the mirror, do we? I do not like physics at all, but based on simple physics, mirrors can reflect light too. May the light be with you.