Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bittersweet bayram

With smiling children in colorful costumes dancing, playing, and waving balloons around Turkish rock icon Barış Manço as he sings "Bu Gün Bayram" ("Today is bayram"), the video for this cheery-sounding song makes it at first seem the picture of a nostalgic remembrance of holiday festivals past, when life was simpler and nothing more exciting than to wake up to a day off school, with sweets to eat and new clothes to wear.

But listening to the lyrics of "Bu Gün Bayram" after coming across it on Twitter today, the first day of Şeker Bayramı in Turkey (known as Eid al-Fitr elsewhere in the Muslim world), it quickly became clear that this is a melancholy song, tinged with loss. Reading up about it on Turkey's famous crowd-sourced "dictionary" Ekşi Sözlük, I learned that it figures in many young Turks' early holiday memories -- and that it is interpreted as being about a widower taking his children to visit the grave of their mother on the first morning of bayram.

All the more fitting for the start of this year's holiday, which follows a week in which terrorist attacks have killed at least 44 people in Istanbul, 222 in Baghdad, 20 in Dhaka, and 4 in Medina. People in each of these cities are celebrating the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Now for many, those celebrations co-mingle with mourning. A grieving parent may well be acting out the very words to this song right now. Hepinizin başı sağolsun.

Since you went
Inside me there’s such a hurt that
Only you understand
You are now far away
With the angels in heaven
You dream about us and cry

Today is bayram
The children are up early
Dressed in their best clothes
Wildflowers in their hands
Don’t cry today, mommy

You, in the summer nights
Sometimes through the stars
You winked at us
You, in the cold days
My memory of you warmed my heart most

Today is bayram
The children are up early
Dressed in their best clothes
Wildflowers in their hands
Don’t cry today, mommy

Today is bayram
Hurry, children
Mommy is waiting for us
The angels lamenting on bayram
These flowers please them

(All translation errors and awkwardness are mine alone)


misk said...

Teşekkürler. And thank you for posting on our behalf in this strange twilight era where no one feels like they should give a break to think, remember or else. Başımız sağolsun ve iyi bayramlar!

Mark and Jolee said...

Jen, Really a very touching post. That constant feeling of anxiety and sadness is always with us, a gnawing pain in our consciousness even as we greet our neighbors and friends and wish them a iyi bayramlar. Evet, başımız sağ olsun. J and M

The Turkish Life said...

Thank you all. It's strange times indeed. Hope everyone had a good -- and safe -- holiday.