April 23rd is a major event for Turkey and its children. The national holiday marks the celebration of children and their future, and their continuation to carry on the sovereignty of Turkey and the other countries of the world. Although it’s not unusual to see Turkish flags hanging out of apartment buildings and office buildings, this holiday marks an even more extreme reason to post the flag in every possible corner of the country. I’ve heard it said that Turkey has the world’s record for biggest flag. Today, it can sure be proven.
The patriotism has its reasons of course. Turkey kindly argues that Children’s Day originated from her country, but its true origins cannot be determined for sure. Its introduction to Turkish history dates back to April 23, 1920, the day Mustafa Kemal Ataturk held the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in the capital city of Ankara, finding the new state of Turkey out of the remaining pieces of the Ottoman Empire. Understanding that the children were the real essence of the nation’s stability, Ataturk presented the holiday to celebrate their hopeful futures in building a joyous country.
Step outside, and the streets are filled with parents taking their children out for shopping. Most families are busy prior to watching their children hold celebrations at their schools, with dances and musical numbers. These celebratory acts are usually aimed at highlighting the culture of Turkey, instilling the country’s pride at a very young age. Government offices are also closed for the national holiday, thus regular stores and restaurants are packed with customers. The lucky children get to visit the toy and trinket shops. The ones taken to the clothing and shoes stores are left crying in despair. But to no avail, they end up dining at Burger King and McDonalds to enjoy a happy meal treat. The nationalist celebration left me hungry for doner, for my Turkish neighbors, cheeseburgers.
If one chooses to stay home, they still will not be able to ignore the fanfare. All day long, most channels are playing cartoons and kid-oriented television shows. At 2pm, the national channel, TRT, broadcasted the official Children’s Day celebration show in Turkey, featuring dance groups from all around the world strutting their cultural stuff for the world to see. From Ukraine to Senegal, Puerto Rico to Japan, no country was missed. Hosted by one of Turkey’s notable TV stars, she announced each country’s group to take their stage entrances throughout the event, where flags were waved and displayed side by side with Turkey’s flags. There was even a featured dance group from San Francisco, representing the USA, with a good ol’ country western ho down, followed by a modern pop-dance number. How very American it was…
To sum it up, Children’s Day was one of the most interesting and sometimes odd celebrations to be a part of. As an American, I was unaware of such a global holiday existing before coming to Turkey. Now having witnessed it and its involvement with the global community, it was nice to see such love and respect being shown from the multitude of countries.