Hıdırellez

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Yesterday was Hıdırellez, a holiday celebrated throughout the Balkans and Turkish speaking places known by several different names according to nationality or religion. You may also know it as Đurđevdan or Ederlezi as the famous song goes. In İstanbul, it is known as a Roma holiday that takes place in their neighborhoods. In recent years, it has caught on a little and it was moved into a large park only to be "canceled" this year due to concerns of over-crowding. Luckily, this cancelation  brought the festivities back to the streets as they had always been in the past. It eliminated the attempt of institutionalizing the holiday as a commercial festival, and led to one hell of a party! The added benefit was that it wasn't overcrowded. There were only locals and people crazy enough to ignore the announcement of its cancelation (like me).

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The party started in the back streets of Ahırkapı with a handful of local Zurna, Davul, and Clarinet players competing for the attention of the dancing public, taking tips. Meanwhile, other people sold beer, sequined fedoras, and snacks to fuel the party in a very Turkish synthesis between New Years Eve in New York City, Carnivale, and a wedding.

Eventually after some time, and without any warning or leadership, the party  transformed into an impromptu parade of sorts. The crowd danced from the streets of Ahırkapı, just a stones throw behind the touristic capital of Istanbul, Sultanahmet, to the shores of the Marmara. On the way we passed several budget hotels with confused tourists peering out their windows perhaps with the impression that every night in Istanbul is like this. Some appeared concerned, while a handful joined the party.

While the festivities resembled a mob of sorts, it was peaceful and celebratory. When a power-hungry police man tried to silence the musicians, everyone began to sing to him until he went away.

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