Turkish Traditions You'll Find Fascinating

Büyük Mecidiye Mosque (Ortaköy Mosque) Istanbul
Büyük Mecidiye Mosque (Ortaköy Mosque) Istanbul | Photo by Meg Jerrard on Unsplash
Feride Yalav-Heckeroth

Turkey has its share of interesting traditions that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in the world. Whether religious or cultural, we have chosen some of the most interesting traditions that you’re bound to come across at some point during your time in Turkey.

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Nazar (The Evil Eye)

Nazar Tree, Cappadocia

One of Turkey’s most popular souvenirs, these blue eyes made of glass are actually meant to ward off the negative energy from someone’s eyes 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.

Görücülük (Courtship)

According to Turkish tradition, when a family wants their son to get married, they first visit the potential wife and her family at home in order to inspect and (if all goes well) ask for her hand. In these courtship scenes it’s traditional for the bride-to-be to make Turkish coffee and serve it to her future in-laws, while they get to have a close look at her.

Turkish Tea

Glass of Turkish Tea

Turkish tea is not just a strong dark red brew served in a tulip shaped glass, it’s a tradition that revolves around hospitality. Wherever you go in Turkey, it’s traditional to be offered a cup of Turkish tea as a sign of welcome, whether you’re at someone’s home, a shop, or even the hairdresser.

Kına Gecesi (Henna Night)

A celebration among the bride and her female relatives and friends before the wedding, the Henna Night traditionally involves the application of henna on the bride’s hands. A religious rite of passage, the henna traditionally symbolizes blood, which marks the bride’s transition from girlhood to womanhood.

Oil Wrestling

Oil wrestling is one of Turkey’s most traditional sports with roots that go all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia. During the famous Kırkpınar oil-wrestling tournament in Edirne, which has been held annually since 1362, the wrestlers douse themselves in oil and then wrestle until a loser is declared (when the navel faces the sky). Oil wrestling matches can go on for up to 40 minutes and for all the peculiar oiliness, can actually be quite captivating.

Loud Car Honking

Turkish people are notorious for their impatience when it comes to traffic, however car honking is also a tradition associated with special events. If you hear car honking you can be sure that either a wedding is taking place or that someone is being sent off to their military service.

Sünnet (Circumcision)

Being circumcised is a monumental event in any Turkish boy’s life because it marks the transition toward manhood. According to tradition, boys who are to be circumcised get to wear a pretty flashy outfit (complete with a scepter) and celebrate with a party that’s comparable to a big birthday.

Adaklık Kurban (Devotional Sacrifice)

At the end of Ramadan it’s traditional to sacrifice an animal and donate the meat to the poor. The adaklık kurban has become very popular in Turkey, and sacrifices can be made at other times as well, if for example, you want your daughter to get married or get a good job.

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