Vibrant festivities of dance, music, food and beverages, verdant landscape, ice cold streams still bearing the chill of melting snow, children playing, men wrestling, women clustering to giggly gossip… This would have been the scene in May 5-6 for Hıdrellez celebrations in countryside in a wide region stretching from Central Asia to Eastern Europe. Spring celebrations are all about conviviality, bringing people out to nature, getting them together after a long closure indoors during the winter months. Totally in contrast with the lockdown and social spacing corona-struck isolation days.
Such spring celebrations are also about matchmaking. Getting young boys and girls together, in hopes that they will be starting their own families, having babies to start anew, to renew the lifecycle, to keep that globe of ours turning. That motive is in line with our quarantine days, our hopes to get the wheels turning just as in the old days. This is the driving force that keeps us going and hoping to get back to normal.
But do we have to get back normal? To my opinion, if going back to normal is to celebrate the spring festivals, a definite yes. Joy of life and conviviality is what humankind needs. But what was really the normal, or were such celebrations already a thing of the past, a nostalgic folkloric ritual? That might be the case, such celebrations might have already been a part of history, sometimes even turning into touristic shows devoid of its context. This could be the proof. Hıdrellez was listed in the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List as a joint cultural asset of Turkey and North Macedonia in 2017. Even this listing is already like a desperate attempt of safeguarding an endangered heritage, this time not a tangible one, but an intangible one, one that can only exist by being repeated by people every spring.
There is another question here: How authentic or real are these spring festivals? Do they still hold the gravity they used to hold in the agrarian communities of the good old times? The times that nature dictated life upon us, when we had seasons of fruits and vegetables, when we had joy tasting the first cherry of the year. To me it seems like for the past several decades we were totally detached from the realities of rural life. Agriculture and husbandry are what gets the wheels rolling and feeds us. However, in Turkey with the construction boom in cities, more and more young people left the countryside, almost as if obliged to follow the call of the big apple. Our bigger cities, especially Istanbul, turned into hideous concrete monsters, and now with the lockdown, thousands are losing jobs, especially the ones working in the hospitality sector. Urban poverty is true misery, and we are going to witness more of it in the near future.
We do not seem to grasp the idea that the world and life is a whole. Together we stand in connection with the people who produce our food, the more we support them, the stronger we grow. We need to come into terms that urbanization does not necessarily equal development. May be coronavirus will be instrumental in bringing us to our senses and help detox our minds in eliminating greed and excessive consuming habits, and we can settle for less and enjoy a simpler life. And, of course, enjoy a convivial spring festival with joy, dance, music, food and drinks, locally grown by local producers, admiring the virtues of rural life and feeling blessed that we live on this wonderful planet. We shall skip this spring by spacing ourselves from each other, but we can hope for the springs ahead. One essential part of Hıdrellez tradition is to make a wish, write it on a piece of paper and bury it under a rose bush, or float it afar in running stream or sea at the dawn of the night that connects the 5th to the 6th of May. I will do so, I will let my handwritten wishes float in the waters of Bosphorus and hope for not going back to “normal” and wishfully move on in life with a lighter baggage. As we keep saying, every cloud has a silver lining. And when clouds clear, the sun shines.
Fork of the Week: The favorite food of Hıdrellez is surely lamb. Actually, in the Ottoman times, before Hıdrellez, nobody would even think of eating spring lamb of the new season. Husbandry is declining in the countryside, it is getting more and more difficult to find shepherds, and Turkmens and Afghans are filling the void coming on the way to Turkey to tend the herds. Needless to say, local indigenous animal breeds are also in danger of extinction. Karayaka lamb is one such case, but luckily a brother-sister team, İbrahim-Nazlı Uyanık Yıldız, left their blue-collar jobs and returned to their homeland to start a business to safeguard the Karayaka breed. They cooperate with local herd keepers and support them fully, almost acting like a cooperative. You can order online from their website either choosing from readily prepared cuts and produce like lamb sausage or pancetta or order a half or whole lamb and have it prepared to your preference. https://nebyandogal.com/
Cork of the Week: Oluş Molu is a woman of strong will. She never left her father’s homeland Kayseri, though she could leave and go to her German mother’s home country. Instead she chose to do organic farming and, even more daringly, superior wine in a countryside known for its conservative profile. I am the lucky one, I had the chance to taste her latest vintage pre-release rosé, a vibrant coupage of Syrah and Kalecik Karası, a perfect marriage of international and local grapes. It went perfectly well with the pink deliciousness of Nebyan lamb cutlets I ordered previously. I raise my glass to her courage and perseverance and congratulate her, as she is now listed 72nd in the Female Founders Club, as one of the top women entrepreneurs of Turkey. To learn more about Molu organic farm and their produce contact: 0534 893 98 97-0533 961 76 12 or mail to firstname.lastname@example.org