National Holidays in Turkey: Important Dates & How to Celebrate

Before traveling to any country (including Türkiye), it’s important to do some research ahead of time — and that includes reading about important Turkish public holidays! In fact, I won’t ever forget the time I accidentally booked my first trip to Turkey and realized that I came right in the middle of the most important religious holiday in Turkey, Ramadan, after a few days. 😅

There are many public holidays in Turkey, including New Year’s Day, Children’s Day, Victory Day, Republic Day, and much more. To ensure a stress-free trip, we’ve put together a list of all the official holidays in Turkey, religious holidays, and other important dates. 

Under each holiday, we’ve also included the official date, how locals celebrate, the history of how the holiday came to be, and any other interesting facts. We hope you enjoy this list of Turkish holidays and traditions — let us know which holiday is your favorite. 🙂 

National Holidays in Turkey: 

December 31 & January 1 — New Year’s Eve / New Year’s Day
April 23 — National Sovereignty and Children’s Day 
May 1 — Labor and Solidarity Day
May 19 — Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth, and Sports Day 
July 15 — Democracy and National Unity Day
August 30 — Victory Day
October 29 — Republic Day 

Other Important Dates in Turkey:

May 18 – 24 — Museum Week 
May 29 — Conquest of Istanbul 
November 10 — Atatürk Memorial Day

Religious Holidays in Turkey:
Ramadan — Varies 
Kurban Bayram (Feast of Sacrifice) — Varies 

National Holidays & Important Days in Turkey 

December 31 & January 1 — New Year’s

Like many countries around the world, many Turkish people see New Years as a new beginning and an opportunity to leave behind the old and embrace the new. 

New Year’s Eve is celebrated in a variety of different ways: some locals will visit their friends and family or host a dinner at their place, others will go outside to watch the fireworks, some will go to bars and nightclubs, and some will stay put and enjoy counting down the seconds at home. In any case, you can definitely feel the festive atmosphere on December 31st! 

If you’re planning to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Istanbul, we highly recommend avoiding the areas around Taksim Square and Istiklal Street — it gets very packed, the crowds of people can get rowdy, and it’s an overall miserable experience if you’re not prepared. 😅

Many travelers (and even some locals) choose to go on a New Years Eve cruise around the Bosphorus,  since that’s where you can find the best view of the fireworks. We recommend booking these cruises ahead of time, however, as they tend to get sold out pretty quickly! 

Likewise, many middle- and high-end hotels will put on a New Year’s Eve dinner or party.  

Some other nice places to see the fireworks in Istanbul include the areas around the Bosphorus Bridge (‘first bridge’), such as Ortaköy on the European side and Kuzguncuk or Beylerbeyi on the Asian side. If you’re looking for a vibrant atmosphere and want to party, the center of Nişantası or Kadıköy are another excellent option, as there are plenty of bars, taverns, and restaurants. 

While we’re on the topic of New Year’s in Turkey, you might notice that Christmas and New Years sometimes tend to get lumped into one holiday — case in point, many stores start to decorate about a month beforehand, and it’s not uncommon to see ‘Happy New Year’ and Santa Claus next to each other. 🙂 

(However, it’s important to note that the vast majority of Turkish people do not celebrate Christmas! Some families will put up a Christmas tree and businesses will often decorate their storefront with winter themes, but it’s definitely not as widespread as in other countries) 

Closures: Shops, restaurants, cafes, and most businesses are open on January 1st. Meanwhile, schools, banks, and post offices are closed. 

How to wish someone a Happy New Year in Turkish: 

The standard greeting is, Mutlu yıllar! (Moot-loo yihl-lar), which means Happy New year! 
You can also say Yeni yılınız kutlu olsun! (Yehni yihl-in-iz koot-loo ohl-son), which means ‘Best wishes for your New Year!’

Children in front of Anıtkabir

April 23 — National Sovereignty and Children’s Day 

As you might have noticed in the title, this day has two parts: it celebrates the day that the  Grand National Assembly of Turkey was founded in 1920, as well as Children’s Day. 

Fun fact: Turkey was the first country to declare Children’s Day a national holiday back in 1921, when Atatürk (the founding father of modern-day Türkiye) dedicated the Turkish Republic to children. 

Personally, this is one of our favorite Turkish holidays (other than October 29) because it’s such a fun and unique concept — and you can truly feel the child-like joy as you walk around the city. 

Most of the festivities revolve around celebrating children and their role in Türkiye’s future. Schools will have week-long celebrations where students recite poems, decorate classrooms, create exhibits, and play games. On April 23, schools are closed and many kids dress up for the occasion by wearing their best clothes with the colors of the Turkish flag (red and white) or a portrait of Atatürk. 

Another interesting part of celebrating April 23 in Turkey is that kids become bosses for the day. Seriously! On this day, the President of Turkey, the parliament representatives, and even mayors in cities like Istanbul and Ankara ‘hand over’ their governmental powers to children for the day. Although this is a ceremonial exercise (children can’t actually change the law :)), the kids can offer suggestions (i.e. to make a new park in Istanbul or to buy new books for their school) and it will usually happen.

Depending on the city, you might also see performances, flags of Atatürk on public transportation and inside stations, and exhibits of children’s art. In fact, last year our local metro station in Istanbul printed out posters of children’s drawings (I think the theme was what is your biggest dream?) and hung them all around the station. It was such a cute and interesting gesture! 

Closures: Like other national holidays, shops, restaurants, cafes, and private businesses are open on April 23, while banks, government offices, and post offices are closed. Schools and universities are closed and children get to enjoy this day to the fullest. 🙂 

May 1 — Labor and Solidarity Day

Labor Day in Turkey is celebrated fairly similarly to other Labor Day holidays around the world. May 1st is a day that honors workers and laborers, usually with rallies and protests in favor of human rights, better working conditions, and labor rights. 

In major cities, the epicenter of rallies are typically large squares near the center. Although the government technically banned any large gatherings, Taksim Square in Istanbul is still a popular meeting place for protests. 

If you’re traveling to another city, you might see protests around Izmir’s Gundogdu Meydanı (near the waterfront), Ankara’s Tandoğan Meydanı (near the main train station), and Antalya’s Cumhuriyet Meydanı (between the Kaleici Panoramic Elevator and Clock Tower). If possible, we recommend avoiding these areas around May 1st. 

May 18 – 24 — Museum Week 

Museum Week isn’t a national holiday, but it’s still a really neat event — especially if you plan to visit a lot of museums on your trip to Turkey! We’ll tell you why 😉

Museum Week, which was originally an initiative taken by UNESCO, has been celebrated in Turkey since 1982. 

While events take place during the entire week, the most important day is May 18 because it’s International Museum Day! On this day, many museums are either free, reduced admission, and/or have longer opening hours. For example, in 2022 nearly 40 museums were open until 23:00, and many others had special exhibits, guest speakers, and more. 

Psst — looking to get off the beaten path? Check out our 10 Unique Museums in Istanbul!

May 19 — Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth, and Sports Day 

The weather is getting warmer, days are getting longer, and another national holiday happens in the middle of May — the Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day!

In fact, this holiday has two components. Let’s take a look: 

Commemoration of Atatürk: The main theme of this holiday revolves around Atatürk’s landing at Samsun on May 19, 1919, which was one of the first events that started the Turkish War to independence and the beginning of the national struggle. A few years later, the new Turkish Republic was proclaimed in 1923 (but we’ll get to that in a bit!) 

Another interesting fact is that Atatürk’s actual date of birth was unknown, but when someone asked him about his birthday, Atatürk always replied that it was May 19 (in his opinion, that was the date Türkiye gained independence). 🙂 

The other component is youth and sports. Besides being a tribute to Atatürk, this day is also dedicated to the youth of Turkey, symbolizing their role in the country’s development and the future.

May 19 in Turkey is celebrated with various sporting events, ceremonies, and activities organized throughout the country, especially with an emphasis on the importance of sports and physical education. Typically, children and young adults visit Anıtkabir (the final resting place of Atatürk), recite poems, and put on parades. 

Closures: May 19 is an official national holiday; banks, government offices, and post offices are closed. Restaurants, cafes, and private businesses are open.

May 29 — Conquest of Istanbul 

A local holiday, May 29 commemorates the day when Istanbul (known as Constantinople back then) was captured by Sultan Mehmed II after a 53-day siege. This marked the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the rise of the Ottoman Empire, and is either referred to as ‘the Fall of Constantinople’ or ‘the Conquest of Constantinople,’ depending who you ask. 😉 

If you’re in Istanbul on May 29, you can expect light shows, fireworks, historical reenactments with actors in traditional costumes, music, festivals, and much more. Those who have a personalized Istanbulkart can also take advantage of free public transport. 

Closures: Everything is open in Istanbul. 🙂 However, we recommend avoiding public transportation if possible, as it gets very very very crowded.

July 15 — Democracy and National Unity Day

One of the newest public holidays is July 15, which commemorates the national unity against the failed coup attempt back in 2016. 

Closures: Since July 15 is a public holiday in Turkey, banks, government offices, and post offices are closed. Restaurants, cafes, and private businesses are open.

August 30 — Victory Day

Remember when we talked about May 19, 1919 and how it marked the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence? Conversely, August 30, 1922 was the final battle in the Greco-Turkish War (part of the larger Turkish War of Independence), which occurred at Dumlupınar. 

The success of the Turkish forces at Dumlupınar and subsequent advances led to an armistice and ultimately paved the way for the negotiations that resulted in the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. This treaty recognized the sovereignty of the newly formed Republic of Turkey and established the modern borders of Turkey.

In Turkey, August 30 is celebrated as Victory Day (known as Zafer Bayramı in Turkish) and is a day dedicated to honoring the Turkish Armed Forces. This holiday is marked by numerous official ceremonies throughout the nation. The most prominent celebrations take place in Ankara, the capital, where the highlight is the ceremonial laying of a wreath at Anıtkabir (the mausoleum of Atatürk) by the president and other high-ranking officials.

The Turkish Air Force often participates in Victory Day celebrations, with air shows and flyovers in major cities. As with other holidays, there are various public events such as concerts, cultural programs, and art exhibitions. Streets and public buildings are adorned with Turkish flags and portraits of Atatürk as well. 

Closures: August 30 is a public holiday in Turkey, banks, government offices, and post offices are closed. Restaurants, cafes, and private businesses are open.

October 29 — Republic Day 

Our absolute favorite holiday! One of the most important holidays in Turkey is Republic Day, which commemorates the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey back on October 29, 1923. 

The festivities technically start in the evening the day before (on October 28) for an interesting reason: back in 1923, Atatürk and his advisors were enjoying a dinner party and discussing the new government, when all of the sudden Atatürk announced, “Gentlemen! We shall declare the republic tomorrow.” After dinner, he and his close confidant, İsmet İnönü, drafted the proclamation. The next day, on October 29, a parliament session was held and the new Republic of Turkey was officially established. 🙂 

Turkey’s Republic Day is celebrated with festivities, patriotic displays, concerts, and fireworks. Typically, parades are held in the morning and afternoon, and the day culminates with a lovely firework display in the evening. In Istanbul, you’ll see fireworks along the Bosphorus, in Ankara the festivities are around Ulus, and in Izmir the firework displays can be seen over the waterfront (i.e. from Gündoğdu Square).

Like many other national holidays, people wear the colors of the Turkish flag and carry small flags to wave around during parades. Anıtkabir (Atatürk’s mausoleum) is a very popular place to visit during this day. 

If you want to congratulate someone on Republic Day, you can say Cumhuriyet Bayramı kutlu olsun! (Joom-hur-ee-yet bai-ram koot-loo ol-sun), which is something similar to ‘Happy Republic Day’! 

November 10 — Atatürk Memorial Day

While not technically a public holiday, November 10 in Turkey is a very important and  bittersweet day for many locals. The founding father of the modern-day Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, died on November 10, 1938, at 9:05 in the morning at Dolmabahçe Palace. 

On the anniversary of Atatürk’s death, locals commemorate his life and achievements with a moment of silence at 9:05 am. In fact, if you’ve ever visited Turkey on November 10, it feels as if time stops once the clock strikes 9:05: sirens blare around the city, flags are lowered, and people suddenly stop what they’re doing to stand in silence for one minute. It’s quite a poignant event to witness (this Youtube video captures the atmosphere very well). 

Around cities and towns, many locals put flags featuring Atatürk’s photo on their doors, windows, and houses. In Istanbul and major cities, the public transportation companies wrap trams, buses, and metro wagons with his portrait, and even the ferries will sound their horn when the clock strikes 9:05 in the morning. 

Many businesses and posts on social media feature a black and white photo of Ataturk, with touching messages as well as the years of his birth and death. However, this is usually written as 1881 – 193∞ — Ataturk died in 1938, but the 8 is turned sideways to symbolize an infinity sign. Likewise, a popular phrase that accompanies his portrait is “Saygı, sevgi, ve özlemle anıyoruz,” which translates to We remember [Atatürk] with respect, love, and longing

Similar to April 23 (Children’s Day) and October 29 (Republic Day), some people choose to wear colors of the Turkish flag or a pin with Atatürk’s portrait. One of the most popular places to visit during this day is Anıtkabir, the final resting place and mausoleum of Atatürk. If you’re in Istanbul, you might also notice large crowds around Dolmabahçe Palace — locals visit the room where Atatürk died to pay their respects and leave flowers. 

Religious Holidays in Turkey

Turkey has two important religious public holidays: Ramadan and Kurban Bayram. Given that the dates of religious holidays in Turkey vary each year, we’ve dedicated a separate section to discuss each one in more detail.

Ramadan (Ramazan)

Ramadan (or Ramazan as it’s known in Turkey) is a deeply spiritual time observed by Muslims around the world, including in Turkey. It’s a month of fasting, reflection, and prayer that falls on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. 

If you’re a tourist visiting Turkey during Ramadan, this is also an opportunity to experience Turkish culture and see the unique traditions.

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, which means they refrain from eating food and drinking. The fast is broken with the iftar meal, which is often a communal event that brings families and friends together (and in some cases, even strangers!). Don’t be surprised if a local invites you to share their iftar meals with you — it’s a common practice. 

If you’d like to return the favor, you can buy a nice box of dates (hurma in Turkish), which is a popular snack to break the fast for two significant reasons. Firstly, the tradition is rooted in the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, as mentioned in the Quran, where it’s suggested to break the fast with dates. Secondly, dates are favored for their natural sugars, which help in quickly balancing blood sugar levels after a day of fasting, 

As Ramadan comes to a close, the anticipation for Eid al-Fitr grows. You might also see the names Ramazan Bayramı (“Ramadan Bayram”) or Şeker Bayramı (“Bayram of Sweets”), but they mean the same thing. This three-day festival marks the end of Ramadan and is a time of celebrations: families visit each other, special prayers are held, and people dress in their finest clothes. One of the most popular Turkish traditions is the giving of sweets and small gifts, particularly to children, which is why it’s also called ‘Bayram of Sweets.’

Ramadan in Turkey by year:

2024 —The month of Ramadan is from March 11 to April 9. Eid al-Fitr is from April 10 to 12
2025 —The month of Ramadan is from March 1 to March 29. Eid al-Fitr is from March 30 to April 1
2026 —The month of Ramadan is from February 18 to March 19. Eid al-Fitr is from March 20 to March 22 

Kurban Bayram

Kurban Bayram, also known as the Feast of Sacrifice, is another significant religious holiday in Turkey. This holiday, which lasts for four days, commemorates the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God. At the last second, Angel Gabriel appeared and provided a ram to sacrifice instead.

The holiday begins with a morning prayer, which sees vast congregations gathering in mosques and open spaces across the country. Following the prayers, the ritual of sacrificing an animal, (usually a sheep, cow, or goat) is performed, and a portion of the meat is distributed to the needy. In fact, the meat of the sacrificed animal is divided into three portions: one part of the meat is consumed by the family that offers the animal, one portion is for friends and relatives, while the rest of the meat is distributed to the less fortunate. If you travel to Turkey during Kurban Bayram, you might see advertisements in grocery stores where clients can buy shares of an animal. 

If you’re afraid of seeing a sacrifice, no worries — large cities like Istanbul, Izmir, and Antalya don’t sacrifice animals out in the open. This usually happens in smaller towns and villages outside of tourist areas. 

Kurban Bayram days in Turkey by year:

2024 — June 16 to June 19
2025 — June 6 to June 9
2026 — May 27 to May 30 


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