Prosecards from the Edge (of a Continent)

A running commentary on my life in Izmir, Turkey...and other thoughts.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ramazan and Şeker Bayram (Part 2)

"Now That We've Starved for a Month, Let's Gorge Ourselves on Sugar."

Ramadan ends with a great, calorific, late-onset-diabetes-inducing sugar binge, otherwise known as Şeker Bayram (or Sugar Festival). The holiday officially lasts three days, the first of which is reserved for family celebrations. The whole family gathers at the home of the oldest person and everyone eats...and eats, and eats. Younger people kiss the hands of their elders to show respect (and curry favor, no doubt), and elders give the children sweets and pocket money. Whole families visit the family cemetery plot to pay respects to the deceased. The following two days are filled with endless visits between relatives, friends, neighbors, etc. The general rule is that you don't visit anyone younger than you; it shows respect for younger people to go to their elders. The visits are short, often a mere fifteen minutes, and are always accompanied by the giving of sweets. It is fascinating to go the the supermarkets in the week before Şeker Bayram and see the vast, glitzy chocolate displays on hand. There are impeccably made-up sales girls standing next to each different brand of chocolate, Sirens luring shoppers to destruction on their chocolatey rocks. Their tactics are aggressive. There you are, Jane Shopper, innocently seeking out the low-fat milk and minding your own business, when a manicured salesperson suddenly takes you by the arm and gently but persuasively tugs you over to her display. This is the supermarket. This shouldn't happen. Anywhere but here. But it does happen here. Apparently these women are direct representatives of the different chocolate manufacturers, and are paid on per-calorie-sold basis. Pre-Bayram chocolate purchasing is HUGE. Look at the shopping carts at the checkout and you will find most of them overflowing with expensive boxes of truffles, all intended to be given to visitors. Mouth-watering as these goodies may look, however, the word among the younger generation is that chocolate is no compensation for numbing days of tedious chitchat...and audible sighs of relief can be heard when distance or business makes it impossible to get home for the holiday.

Bayram is over now, and although I had no relatives to escape from, I can breathe a sigh of relief over one thing: I can once again seek out the low-fat milk in peace.


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