Children’s Day in Istanbul

On April 23rd we went to see the Children’s Day celebrations.  It’s been celebrated since 1927, when they transformed the anniversary of the Grand National Assembly’s establishment into the “The Holiday of National Sovereignty and Children”.

The celebration we went to was held in a large stadium, where representatives from local schools came to dance and perform.  We strongly suspected that it wouldn’t be about play – that it might not really be about children, so much as future adults – but we were very interested in what the celebrations of this dual holiday might entail, and indicate.

By arriving late and wandering in through the first big door we found, we accidentally snuck into the press box.

Luckily, as an American I have a high tolerance of both synchronized dancing AND nationalism.  In the bleachers all around us, toddlers sat on their parents’ laps and waved small red flags.

That’s a portrait of Ataturk (first President and essentially founder of the Republic of Turkey), and his image can be seen framed in every office, school and public space you visit in Turkey.  If you have any interest in how a democratic, secular Turkey came into existence, I can recommend starting with the Wikipedia article and learning more.  It’s fascinating stuff, and the people that we spoke with remain incredibly fond of him, and protective of his memory (and not just because it remains legally and socially difficult to criticize him).

While we sat on the bleachers and watched the performances, Hale clapped along and spoke fondly of the celebrations she had participated in as a child.  She was sad that there were comparatively few people in the stands.  “There are lots of celebrations,” she said.  “Perhaps everyone is at their local event, and not here.”

But there were lots of people there, including celebrities and newscasters.  I saw big foamy microphones from MTV and other stations, both those which Hale identified as being “cool” and those which were “religious”.

Behind the dancers were all the other children, presumably those not chosen for dancing.  They were still dressed in the event’s colours and held up signs which changed to spell out the slogans of the day in big capitals.

The children waiting to perform stood in rows along either side of the stadium, chatting with one another in groups or swishing their giant bell sleeves in the air.

THIS IS YOUR DAY, said the signs behind the dancers, before flipping when the music changed.

ISTANBUL 2012, the next one said.



2 thoughts on “Children’s Day in Istanbul

  1. Mm Morgan, this clearly is not about the children. They’re kind of ‘using’ the children as a way of showing they care about the country, because they are the ‘future’. Well duh, of course they are! The indoctrination as Meynell called it the other day of the children, is a bit creepy, but it could be a lot worse! At least the country is making great events that aren’t hurting anyone and Meynell said today the kids were happy about having time off school? But then their school schedule sounds pretty grueling too. I was saying in class this morning that when I went to Turkey, near Manavghat, on market day, there was no children playing during the day. The playgrounds we did see were empty, maybe this was down to heat so the parents were just keeping them in the cool.

    I said its probably completly different nationally, because the countries so big, same with the UK.

    Thanks for a great blog! Speak soon!

    Lily x

    1. Hmm – yes, I agree that this wasn’t about children on their own terms, but I also think that children are indoctrinated all the time by different countries, in a thousand different ways. It’s just sometimes easier to see when it’s happening in ways different to how it was done to us!

      You touch on a couple of other points I’m going to address in today’s post, specifically about school schedules and outside playgrounds. I think it’s fascinating that you saw playgrounds empty during the day – I wonder if it was heat, or timing, or local differences.

      I’d love to hear more about what you saw when you were there!



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