Today marks the beginning of the four-day Eid al-Adha for Muslims in Turkey and around the world, with millions across the nation traveling to visit family members and loved ones this holiday weekend. Eid al-Adha is Arabic for Feast of the Sacrifice (in Turkish, Kurban Bayramı) and is one of two holidays on the Islamic calendar, starting on the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah each year. For many the day will begin at the mosques for the special Eid prayer that takes place after sunrise. The prayer is said as a congregation, and the imam delivers a special sermon on the occasion of the holiday, usually emphasizing the values of thankfulness, togetherness and charity that Eid represents.

Following this, animals are slaughtered as a reminder of the Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to God as an act of obedience and submission. A section of the meat is distributed to the poor along with other charitable donations, as per Islamic tradition.

For all four days of Eid Turks are active in visiting and receiving family and friends, with a flurry of people in and out of most homes. Beginning with the greeting “Bayramın mübarek olsun” (May your Eid be blessed), a positive atmosphere is created across the country, with solidarity between relatives, neighbors and society at large, with communities not forgetting the needs of the poor and less fortunate even at this joyful time. It is a time of giving and sharing.

During visits it is traditional for younger people, especially children, to kiss the right hand of the elderly and press it to their forehead as a sign of respect. Those receiving guests offer them cologne and traditional desserts like baklava and lokum (Turkish delight) as well as food -- some of the dishes always include meat from the animal the family sacrificed if they were able to afford it. Children are generally given a small amount of money on this day.

People also traditionally wear their best outfits on Eid. Called “bayramlık” in Turkey, they are often purchased just for the occasion. In addition to friends and family, Turks also set aside time on one of day of the holiday to visit cemeteries and offer prayers and pay their respects to deceased relatives and friends. Many also visit the graves of fallen soldiers during this time, and the doors of many orphanages and shelters will also be open to visitors from the public.

Eid al-Adha also marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca, a requirement for all adult Muslims who have the means at least once in their lifetime. It is after Eid that Turkish pilgrims begin to trickle back into Turkey from Saudi Arabia, bringing extra joy to their families at the reunion.

Television and radio stations broadcast a variety of Eid programs, including movie specials, music programs and celebratory addresses from stars and politicians. Unfortunately, the increase in visits and traveling during Eid comes along with an increase in traffic accidents and fatalities. Officials have warned drivers to be more careful when driving during the Eid vacation, saying roads and highways will be more crowded than usual. There is a significant increase in casualties during these vacations, and officials called for those traveling to pay greater attention to and fully comply with traffic regulations. Drivers are particularly being cautioned to avoid drinking and driving as well as speeding.

Public officials, politicians issue Eid greetings

Signs and placards have been hung at intersections and across buildings throughout cities in Turkey by various political parties and municipalities wishing citizens a happy Eid holiday.

In a statement released ahead of this year’s Eid al-Adha, Religious Affairs Directorate head Ali Bardakoğlu reminded the public that correct procedure had to be followed when sacrificing animals, and that sacrifices should take place in proper, sanitary facilities and be carried out by authorized butchers. He emphasized the charitable aspect of Eid and asked that nobody be left out of the festivities, saying: “In order for Eid to be experienced as a true Eid, beginning with the elders in our family we must visit all of our relatives, neighbors and friends, and also visit those who are sick and those without any family. On this day of sharing and togetherness, we must take care not to leave anyone out, as Eid is only Eid insomuch as it is shared with all segments of society.”