We may define the Folk Calendar as a systematic arrangement of time and life, assuming the task of remembering religious, historical, traditional, educational, religious, legal, agricultural, political and economic ties established by relationships based on long-term experiences between natural events, social institutions and events inherited by the people of a particular region; in essence as a cultural inheritance. Apart from the popularly used calendars, folk calendars, also known as local calendars, give different names to the parts and divisions of the year, and sometimes ascribe positive or negative features to them and to various natural events.
According to widespread belief, not complying with the folk calendar and ignoring its stipulations leads to significant losses, since the folk calendars are products of the natural and cultural environment in which they form. In local calendars, while some divisions of times are explained by natural events which happen on a regular, cyclical basis, these divisions may also be accounted for by social events within a community, such as religious ceremonies, relationships with other communities that affect that society, a novelty introduced to the society, a change in forms of production, the death of an esteemed person etc.
We can define the majority of principal factors that go to make up folk calendars as type of production, and related elements and institutions of the social structure; the economic occupations concerned, practices accumulated around emphasized elements of production in the society, related occurrences and the belief system. In principle, it is observed that the economic structure of the society and the occupations in it, which determine its economy, appear most influential in the formation of folk calendars.
In Turkey, where the great majority of the population is Muslim, people use two different calendars today:
1. The “kameri calendar” that divides the year into 12 parts in the light of the changing phases of the moon every 29/30 days. This calendar regards the year as consisting of 354/355 days.
2. The “semsi calendar”, the solar calendar which is generally used all over the world and which is based on the movement of the earth around the sun that lasts 365/366 days.
People use both these two calendars when referring to special traditional days. They use the lunar calendar for religious festivals, and the solar calendar, which indicates the seasons, for other rites and activities.
We can observe differences due to various causes in the naming and division of the months. In some regions, February is called “Gücük (küçük)” (small) because it is shorter than the other months. Planting, livestock raising and fruit growing also lend their names to various months in popular calendars, such as Koç Ayi (the month of the ram), Orakayi (the month of the scythe) or Kiraz ayi (the month of the cherry).
The year is divided into two parts, Kasim and Hidrellez, in most folk calendars. Kasim begins with the month of November as per official calendar and lasts until May 6. This period is the winter. Hidrellez begins on May 6 and ends in November, representing the summer. The winter period is divided into three main parts, each of which has 45 days: Kasım, Zemheri, and Hamsin. The first 135 days of the winter period, that is regarded as consisting of 180 days, are called “numbered” or “counted”. This is the period when the winter is harshest. There is another 45-day period, which completes the winter, starts on March 21 and ends on May 6. This period is called “dokuzun dokuzu” (nine of nine), “april beşi” (fifth of april), “leylek kışı”, (winter of the stork), or “oğlak kışı” (winter of the baby-goat), etc. This calendar is of vital importance for those sections of society dealing with agriculture and livestock raising. They need to know the “counted” days to protect their animals and plants from severe cold.
Low levels of technology leads some societies to use experiences and observations going back to hundreds of years in order to predict atmospheric events, and a high success rate can attract considerable attention. In traditional communities, in which the most important element affecting life is nature, information regarding weather forecasting assume an important place within the cultural whole. Determining weather conditions before setting out to fish or on migration becomes a precondition for the proper fulfillment of the activity.
In societies dealing with agriculture, information related to the phases of the moon is of great importance. For example, if the moon is in crescent form and its open end is pointing up, this is interpreted to mean that it will soon rain. The time for sowing seeds in the field is also determined by looking at the phases of moon. The first phase of the new moon is called “ayın aydını” (moon bright), and the form it takes after a while is called “ayın garangısı” (half moon). People avoid sowing in the first days of the new moon and wait for a while.
Observing the activities of human beings, animals and plants is effective in weather forecasting, which is of vital importance for people in rural areas. For instance, if poplar trees start to shed their leaves from the top, this means it will be a harsh winter. In the same way, if pine trees a great many cones, it means the winter will be long and difficult. Animal behavior also gives clues about the weather. Rain is to be expected if sheep lie down facing the qibla (the point toward which Muslims turn to pray, esp. the Ka‘ba, or House of God, in Mecca).
Since lack of rain in the rainy season caries with it serious consequences, people tend to think that they should do something about it. Ceremonies held to encourage rain are among the elements of Turkey’s rich folk culture heritage. These come under two main aspects:
a. “Rain prayers” which adults attend,
b. Game-like ceremonies in which children also participate.
The rain prayers in which grown-up people attend are usually performed in open air where there is a grave or shrine and it is led by an imam. The imam prays and the people attending the ceremony joins the prayers; and then an animal is offered as a sacrifice; and then a meal is given to the attendees. A specific number of stones are collected and people pray over these stones. Then, the stones are thrown into water. If it rains sufficiently, these stones are taken out of water.
In the rain prayers which children attend, the youngsters usually gather together and visit all the houses in the vicinity, collecting cooking oil, flour, sugar, etc. Food is then prepared with what they have collected. Meanwhile, they also play and arrange festivities among themselves.