Baklahorani Carnival

Baklahorani Carnival
As a predominantly Muslim state and an officially secular one, Turkey doesn’t have a strong tradition of celebrating Carnival. In fact, the country’s only Carnival was brought to Turkey by Orthodox Greeks. It is called Baklahorani and takes place in Istanbul.

For almost 500 years, local Orthodox Greek communities throughout the city of Istanbul celebrated the Shrovetide season with balls, parades, and street parties. The festivities culminated on Shrove Monday (the Monday before Ash Wednesday). This day was named Baklahorani which literally translates as “I ear beans”, a reference to the dietary restrictions of Lent.

The celebrations became public in the mid-19th century. Although still led by the local Orthodox Greek community, they were inter-communal and open to everyone regardless of their nationality or religion. The last day of the Carnival season, Baklahorani, featured a masked parade that began in Pera (now Beyoğlu), marched through the city and ended in the Tatavla neighborhood (now Kurtuluş).

The parade involved folk dances accompanied by traditional instruments such as mandolin, clarinet, zurna and drums. Young men often wore fustanella, a traditional skirt-like garment worn by men in the Balkans. They also painted their faces with coal powder or flour, and put on fake mustaches or beards.

Baklahorani was the most famous Christian festival in Turkey between the two World Wars. However, the anti-mask law of 1943 as well as social and financial discrimination of Greeks and other non-Muslim communities put an end to the original Carnival.

The historical Baklahorani carnival was revived in 2010 by a group of Greeks and Turks from Istanbul. Its main organizers were Turkish researcher Hüseyin Irmak and Greek musician Haris Theodorelis Rigas. They saw this event as an opportunity to remind people about the country’s multicultural past. The 2010 celebration was quite modest, but the scale of the Carnival has been growing ever since.

Baklahorani Carnival





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