It’s that time of year again, when Ramazan is drawing to a close and everyone starts to think about, and prepare for, Bayram. Some compare it to Easter because it comes at the end of the time of fasting, and the celebration does involve sweets and chocolate being distributed, just not in the quantities that some get at Easter. It’s a bit more of a sedate affair and while each family may have their own traditions generally it involves visiting family members over the three days to pay respects, offer congratulations/salutations, and have a bit of a gossip. Often there’s a big family meal in the evening, and for the more religious families it starts with an early morning trip to the mosque.
Not all traditions are being upheld, and this year especially changes in family mean that Bayram brings a bit of a dilemma, or at the very least M and I are not agreeing on what should be done when.
The basic tradition at Bayram is that the younger family members are obliged to visit the older relatives. Since Ramazan and Bayram are currently in the summer it means that, for a few years, we will be in Mersin celebrating. This should be excellent as it gives the boys time to really learn something about their culture, and how the end of Ramazan is celebrated. Trouble is, the family is not what it was and it’s hard to define who visits who.
A few years ago when M’s father was alive it was much simpler. Baba/Dede was no longer able to live alone and needed 24 hour care. This fell on the 2 siblings still living in Mersin, younger sister and younger brother. So whoever Baba/Dede was staying with at the time would be the person to host the evening meal on the first day of Bayram. Since Baba/Dede was definitely the oldest living relative everyone would come to visit him. It was fairly simple. There were a few other elderly relatives who were pretty much housebound, so we would visit them on day two.
It’s normal here that once a woman marries she becomes part of her husband’s family–that can often go someway to explain why women look miserable on their wedding photos. It may not be because of an arranged marriage, but rather that tradition says it is a shameful to look happy on her wedding day because she is leaving her family behind. These are very old traditions and upheld less and less. Even so, daughters will usually visit their own family on day two after visiting their husband’s relatives on day one. This is what Ayse would do, and M’s other sister also if Baba/Dede was not staying with her at Bayram.
After Baba/Dede died it got a little complicated. Eldest brother doesn’t live in Mersin, and it was impractical for everyone to troop off to visit him, especially given that most of the family still live here. M is the next eldest, so I sort of half expected it to fall on my shoulders. But with sisters off visiting husband’s family on day one, the family gathering came to ours on day two. Elder brother would come to us if he had decided to come to Mersin, which he didn’t always do, as would younger brother who lives here. Youngest brother lives in Germany and I can’t recall the last time he was here for Bayram. Anyway, a couple of years ago almost everyone packed our small flat on day two and we even managed to have an almost full family photo. That was definitely a challenge as there must have been at least 25 people, still pretty small for a Turkish family.
A lot has changed since then. Not long after the photo M and younger brother had a big fall out. It’s not completely untrue to say that younger brother has a bit of a chip on his shoulder, and last year succeeded in pushing us out to host the family breakfast on day two–that we had done in previous years. Quite a big snub, since you can tell from the language that a great deal of importance is given to being older. Abi means big brother, Abla means big sister, but there are no specific words for younger brothers and sisters.
Usually, M’s children from his first marriage come to Mersin and stay with their grandparents then come to visit us. Not this year. It’s becoming more common, especially as Bayram is falling in the summer months, to take it as a mini holiday. Even though we have a pool in our site and are right on the beach, they have chosen to go and stay with an aunt who lives by the coast in the West of the country. Suffice to say M is deeply hurt by this.
Bayram this year will be particularly hard for M. It doesn’t seem or feel right to celebrate so soon after Ayse has died. They’ve had the three days of mourning, but people are still coming to share their condolences and M has to be available as the male relative to greet them. Mourning in Islam is marked by key points, after 3 days they read to Koran together, on day 14 there is a visit to the mosque and family, and again on day 40, they are the ones that I know about. I’m sure I’m about to learn a lot more.
It would seem that the family has scattered and become smaller, although in may respects through marriages and births it has become bigger. There are far fewer people for us to visit, and we are uncertain if people will visit us as M is the eldest. We could probably do our visits in one day. I had suggested that our small family unit celebrates in our own way, that we could go to one of our favourite places on the first morning of Bayram following morning prayers, to Narlikuyu or the hills just opposite. There they serve a delicious brunch, with seating designed in traditional yurt style–the boys love it. M is torn, and not too keen, what if someone wants to visit–highly unlikely but I say put them off till the afternoon or we can visit them? Why not on day 2? Well isn’t that when all the people likely to visit us would come, ie the women of the family, because they have visited their husband’s relatives on day one.
The discussion is on hold. Events have overtaken it. Smelly knows that he will have to kiss people’s hands and touch them to his forehead. Fatso may know this but I doubt he would do it, and Lai lai well he’s just in lai lai land. Whatever happens, this Bayram will not be one that is full of laughter. It sort of makes me think what is said about Christmas–being one of the most stressful and lonely times of the year for many, a time when smiles are painted on to cover up family tensions or sadness.
Ah well, at least there are chocolates and sweets, not like the next one……