The televisions run the same few screens every morning as we wait for the metro to pick us up in the underground tunnel. Every three minutes we see a preview for “SADECE SEN”, (a riveting Turkish film starring a man in love with a blind girl who loves to hug him in lakes, a man who is always on fire, and a man who likes to punch men who are on fire) and every minute in between is a small news blurb, or a prediction for when the next train will come. Today, as Caitlin and I were waiting, the screens were filled with a live news broadcast of what looked like a small child giving her opening statement in court. Our minds raced as we tried to figure out what this cute, innocent, little girl had possibly done to get herself on national news. We tried our best to decipher the Turkish headlines, but were unsuccessful. Then it all clicked… it was Children’s Day!
On April 23, 1920, during Turkey’s War of Independence, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (the Turkish Parliament) was established. In 1927, it became Children’s Day – or, more officially, ‘The Holiday of National Sovereignty and Children’ thanks to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. He decided to dedicate this day to the children to emphasize that they are the future of the new nation. Every year the entire country celebrates its children by hosting celebrations and festivals, and attending plays and ballets starring the children of Turkey.
Many ceremonies are held all around Turkey welcoming children from all around the world, with the biggest ceremony taking place at the Atatürk Mausoleum in Ankara. As Atatürk dedicated the Republic to children, a ceremony is therefore held with school children taking seats in Parliament for the day to discuss matters concerning children, which is what we saw on the subway television earlier that morning. Turkey has worked hard to internationalize this day and a large number of foreign countries send groups of children to participate in the festivities in Turkey.
Though we were quite busy all day in studio with final due dates quickly approaching, I was able to take a few study breaks to see a bit of these Children’s Day festivities. The streets in mid-day were even more alive than usual, with young families all over celebrating time together on their day off.