The calendar of public holidays in North Cyprus is a mixture of official patriotic commemorations, many imported from Turkey, and religious festival holidays.
January 1 – New Year’s Day
Like elsewhere in the world, the New Year’s Day is preceded by enormous celebrations on New Year’s Eve. In North Cyprus the joyful night is accompanied with heavy parting, drinking, singing and breathtaking fireworks to welcome the New Year. Although some families label it a secular holiday, there are Christmas trees glittering in some houses and schools and present exchanging is sometimes carried out.
April 23 – Turkish National Sovereignty and Children’s Day
All over Turkey and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus the day is celebrated along with vast ceremonies and performance. April 23 is, in accordance with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, dedicated to the children of the country to emphasize that they represent the future of the new nation. It was on April 23, 1920, during the War of Independence, that the Grand National Assembly was established in Ankara and subsequently laid on the foundations for a new, independent, secular, and modern republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
May 1 – Labour Day
A Labour Day, also known as May Day, is celebrated in most countries of Europe. It is billed as a holiday that resulted from efforts of the labour union movement, to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers. In North Cyprus, however, represents a movable public holiday. Only the government officials are closed on this day.
May 19 – Atatürk Commemoration and Youth & Sports Day
This annual Turkish national holiday is celebrated to memorialize the beginning of Turkish War of Independence launched by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk landing in Samsun, the best landing point on the Black Sea coast on May 19, 1919. The day commemorates the liberation of Anatolia and Istanbul which were occupied by the naval forces of foreign countries. Atatürk himself proclaimed May 19 as “Youth and Sports Day” and it thus serves to honour the country’s founder. During this holiday ceremonies are held across all Turkey as well as North Cyprus and top civilian and military officials attend a ceremony at Anitkabir, Atatürk’s mausoleum in Ankara.
July 20 – Turkish Intervention (Peace and Freedom Day)
The date of July 20, 1974 recollects an important milestone in history of Cyprus. The division of the island which can be perceived until present days has its roots in violent struggle between Greek and Turkish invaders. On 15 July, 1974 a coup d’état was organized by the Greek army forces against the then Archbishop Makarios and his government, with the aim of uniting the island with Greece. During the days following the overthrow, many Turkish Cypriot villages were razed and their inhabitants slaughtered by Greek Cypriots. 5 days later, Turkey responded to the massacre and on 20 July, 1974 the Turkish military intervention was launched, also known as Turkish Peace Operation. The troops of Turkey invaded the north of island to stop the bloodshed and to provide safety for Turkish Cypriots. Since the gruesome event of 1974, Cyprus has remained divided, one third of the north part being occupied by Turkish Cypriots and the two-third southern part of island controlled by Greek Cypriots. In North Cyprus, Peace and Freedom Day is celebrated as an anniversary of the occupation of the island’s northern part by Turkish troops of 1974 and is accompanied with Turkish and Northern Cyprus flag-waving ceremonies and significant military flight parades.
August 1 – Establishment date of T.M.T (Social Resistance Day)
After 1956 the political situation of Cyprus, then a British colony, remained tense as there was persistent unrest between Greek Cypriot majority and Turkish Cypriot minority. The TMT (Turk Mukavement Teskilati or Turkish Resistance Organization) was founded early in 1958 to face EOKA’s (Ethnikí Orgánosis Kypríon Agonistós or National Organization of Cypriot Fighters) aim and struggle for partition of the island between Greece and Turkey. TMT organized a boycott of Greek-Cypriot products and shops, just as EOKA was presiding over a Greek-Cypriot boycott of British products.
August 30 – Zafer Bayram (Victory Day)
Led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Turkish forces successfully won the liberation effort and great offensive against invading (Greek) troops that started on 26th August 1922 and ended four days later on 30th August, 1922 in absolute victory. On Victory Day, the president, force commanders, top generals and military cadets attend the ceremony of laying wreaths at Atatürk’s mausoleum in Anitkabir.
October 29 – Turkish Republic Day
Linked with the Youth and Sports Day and Victory Day, the Turkish Republic Day makes a final piece of chain events that happened during the War of Independence launched on 19 May, 1919. After Anatolia was freed from foreign rule in 1919, the subsequent victory of Turkish troops on 30 August 1922 under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk paved its way to the later declaration of independent Republic of Turkey on 29 October 1923.
November 15 – Republic Day of T. R. N. C.
Turkish Cypriots ratified their own constitution first in 1975, a year after the blood and fierce fighting with Greek Cypriots. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) was established on 15 November 1983, by the Turkish Cypriot community. An independent state is, however, recognised only by Turkey. A new constitution was drafted and adopted two years later, in 1985.
Ramazan (End of Ramadan) or Seker Bayram (Sugar Bayram)
Seker Bayram, which is also called the Sugar Festival, takes place at the end of fasting month of Ramazan and lasts for three days. This religious feast is celebrated with family reunions and giving the presents and sweets to visitor. During the feast of Seker Bayram older members of the family are respected by kissing their hands and many Turkish Cypriots if not most of them, attend mosques. At northern outskirts of Nicosia, there is a fun-fair area with lunapark rides for children and traditional food and crafts. The restaurants in North Cyprus are usually empty on the 27th night of Ramazan, which is known as Kadir Gecesi, or the night the Koran was revealed to Muhammad.
Kurban Bayram (Feast of the Sacrifice)
Kurban Bayram occurs two months after the Seker Bayram, and lasts for four days. This feast commemorates the thwarted sacrifice of Ishmael by Abraham, which is a Koranic version of the Abraham-and-Isaac story, and used to be distinguished with the dispatch and roasting of vast numbers of sheep. The custom, however, has faded in Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots are said to belong to the laxest Muslims world-wide in terms of observance. Many of them, if not most of them, attend the mosques, but almost everybody makes the effort to abstain from alcohol at this feast.