Hıdırellez Date in the current year: May 6, 2024

Hıdırellez Hıdırellez (also spelled Hıdrellez) is a traditional spring festival celebrated in Turkey on May 6. It marks the day when the prophets al-Khidr (Hizir) and Elijah (Ilyas) met on Earth. The word “Hıdırellez” is a fusion of the prophets’ names.

In many cultures, there are traditional festival celebrating the arrival of spring. They include the Gaelic Beltane, the Germanic Walpurgis Night, the Serbian Đurđevdan, and many others. Originating from pagan cults, some of these festivals eventually merged with Christian or Muslim holidays. For example, Đurđevdan is now associated with the feast of Saint George in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Turkic Hıdırellez is also believed to have originated from pagan rituals and ceremonies that mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Over time, it became connected to the two closely associated prophets, al-Khidr and Elijah. According to legend, they met together every spring in Jerusalem to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca. Hıdırellez is supposedly the day of their meeting. The names of the prophets were fused to create the name of the festival.

Interestingly, some researchers consider al-Khidr and Elijah to be the same person because very little is known about al-Khidr, and he is mostly mentioned in connection to Elijah. Others think that al-Khidr is the Muslim counterpart of Saint George, whose feast day is celebrated by Eastern Christians on May 6.

Although al-Khidr and Elijah are Islamic prophets, Hıdırellez is mostly a secular holiday. However, the Alevis (followers of a syncretic Islamic tradition named Alevism) consider it to be a religious observance. It is regarded to be one of the most important seasonal festivals throughout the Turkic world.

Nowadays, Hıdırellez is celebrated mainly in small towns and villages rather than large cities. Before the festival, people clean their homes and decorate them with flowers and garments because they believe that al-Khidr is going to visit them on the feast day. According to tradition, the immortal al-Khidr descends on Earth to help those in need, bringing hope, health, and happiness.

Hıdırellez celebrations typically include picnics in the countryside by the water (streams, rivers, lakes or other water springs). This tradition stems from a widespread belief suggesting that al-Khidr drunk the water of life to become immortal. Festive meals usually include roasted lamb and other special dishes.

Many people believe that the prayers and wishes come true on the eve of Hıdırellez, especially if one prays by the water. Occasionally, people would write their wishes or prayers on small pieces of paper and toss them into a nearby river.

One more ritual associated with the holiday is jumping over the fire at least three times. Hıdırellez fires are believed to protect from all illnesses or diseases for all the year long. The belief in the purifying power of fire also has a pagan origin. Beltane and other spring and summer festivals also have the tradition of lighting bonfires.

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