When she was little, she had only one new dress and one pair of shoes each year and she had to wait until the Ramadan bayram holiday to get them.
Today, as an elderly woman walking on one of Istanbul’s most crowded shopping streets, Mahmutpaşa Street in Eminönü, Ayten İrtekin, 73, had her hands full of bags with stuff she bought for bayram.
İrtekin said when she was little the spirit of Ramadan bayram was everywhere in Istanbul. She said especially children, but extended families as well, ordered new outfits from tailors in the neighborhood and would not wear them until the first day of the bayram.
“I remember putting my new shoes under my pillow and sleeping with them on the eve of bayram when I was a child. We did not have many new outfits but the ones we had for the bayram were the best of all,” she said.
İrtekin said, regardless of their economic status, everyone paid attention to buying new clothes for bayram in the past, especially for children. This made it more exciting, since they had to wait until the very first day of bayram to wear them before visiting family elders.
Although there is a word in Turkish, “bayramlık,” to define the new outfits bought exclusively for the holidays, this tradition is about to die.
Hasan Bal, 60, another shopper in Eminönü, said nowadays people can purchase new clothes anytime and they do not pay attention to having new outfits for the bayrams any more.
According to İrtekin, the most significant reason for this change is the increased production in the textile industry. “The ready made clothing places increased now. People have more options today. The tailors in the neighborhoods are replaced by big shops with lots of clothes,” she said.
As older people believe that the spirit of bayram has gone for good, younger shoppers complain about the economic crisis and its effect on purchasing power.
Dilek Eleman, mother of two, said, this year she did not buy new outfits for herself and her husband. “But, I try to buy new clothes for the children. It is important not to disappoint them during bayram,” she said.
Another shopper Selda Ak was looking for cheap and good clothes to buy for her two children. “I could not find any yet, but I have to buy new clothes for the children,” she said. Ak said, although she bought new outfits for herself last bayram, she will not buy any this year because the economic crisis affected their budget negatively.
Another reason affecting the decrease in bayram shopping is the opening of the schools coinciding with Ramadan this year. Some people said they already spent money on children’s school uniforms and other needs.
Safiye Sanal is one of them. She said she already bought new school uniforms for her children and cannot afford new outfits for bayram.
Shop owners blame the economic crisis and capitalism, which promote over-consumption and weakening of local traditions. They say, although the prices decreased, sales have gone down, too.
Mehmet Karabudak works in a shop selling men’s suits. He said the price of a shirt decreased from 23 Turkish liras to seven liras, but it still not attractive to people. “Last year, this street [Mahmutpaşa] was so crowded that people were hardly able to walk,” said Karabudak.
Adana Almacı, 46, said he used to sell t-shirts for 40 liras in the past, but now people do not even buy for 10 liras. “People say 10 liras for a t-shirt is expensive. No one has money to shop and our sales have declined,” he said.
Another shop owner, Ozan Demir, said many people went to their hometowns during the summer because usually the religious festivals happen during the winter but the date changes and they overlap with summer approximately every 30 years.