Folk Calendar

We may define 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 people of any 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 ascribes positive or negative features to them. According to widespread belief, there are some powers that need to be avoided or else abided by in the seasons, months, weeks, nights, days and even hours of the folk calendar. In local calendars, while some divisions of times are explained by natural events which happen on a regular, cyclical basis, sometimes these divisions may be explained 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.

In forming folk calendars, numerous factors play an important role.

Geographic Factors: Mountains, rivers, valleys, vegetation and domestic and migrating animals that are to be found in the settlement area affect the formation of the folk calendar.

Climatic Conditions-Seasons: There are numerous examples of reflections of climatic conditions and season in folk calendars in Turkey, such as “Zemheri” (intense cold), “Hamsin” ( the period of fifty days that follows the coldest days of winter), “Erbain” (forty days of winter), “Eyyam-ı Bahur” (the hottest days of summer, the first week of August), “Cemreler” (it is believed that warmth falls from the sun first to the air, in February, and then to the air and water) “Mart Dokuzu” (nine cold days of March, still considered as winter, not spring), “Leylek Kışı” (winter of the stork), “Oğlak Kışı” (Winter of the baby goat), “Kocakarı soğukları” (winter of the old woman, the middle of March), “Hıdırellez” ( May 6th, generally considered as the beginning of summer time), “Ekim Zamanı” (Time of planting), “Hasat Zamanı” ( Time of reaping), “Bağbozumu” (harvesting of grapes, end of summer), etc.

Natural Events:Reflections of major events may also be observed in folk calendars, such epidemics that lead to significant numbers of deaths in the human or animal population, flood, drought, the earthquakes in Erzincan and Gediz.

Celestial Incidents: The visual forms of the moon, stars, star clusters and the falling of shooting stars have influenced the formation of some folk calendars. Some beliefs and practices in Turkey in relation to the North Star, the “ülker” star and lunar and solar eclipses are examples of this.

Religious Factors: Various sacred nights (Kandiller) of the Muslum community, sacred months, points related to the Hadj pilgrimage or benevolence, religious bairams (festivals) celebrated in Turkey on the basis of Islamic principles are some examples of the formation of local calendars.

Economic Factors: Economic activity defines social structure, implementations and practices accumulated around production. Events and beliefs related to economic life create the framework of folk calendars. The best example of this is the names given to months in some regions:. “Döl tökümü” (the shedding of semen, March), “Çift ayı” (month of farming implements, April), “Göç ayı” (the month of migration, May), “Kiraz ayı” (month of the cherry, June).

Social Events: Social events such as revolutions, periods during which various political parties were in power, victories and defeats and migrations also affect the folk calendar.


In Turkey, where the great majority of the population is Muslum, people use two different calendars:

1. “Kameri calendar” that divides into 12 parts due to the changing phases of the moon every 29/30 days. This calendar regards the year as consisting of 354/355 days.

2. “Semsi calendar”, the solar calendar which is generally used all over the world. This calendar is based on the movement of the earth around the sun. According to this calendar, the years 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.

The most frequent traditional method used to show the time of a specific event is taking that event as a historical landmark. For example “Seferberlik” (Mobilization for war, the 1914-1918 War), “93 Harbi” (The war of 93, 1876), Balkan Wars (1912), The Erzincan Earthquake (1939).

Day and night are periods of time beginning with sunrise and lasting until dawn. In contrast to the practice in the West, in Turkey a new day is considered to begin when the sun goes down. For instance, when the sun goes down on Thursday, it is accepted that Friday has begun.

Altough everybody knows and uses the general names of the days of the week, in some regions and villages some days also go by different names. For example, in the Cal district of Denizli, Thursday is known as “Friday night” and Wednesday is known as “lighty”. Different names used for the days depends on the locations of market places.

In calendars used by agricultural and livestock raising communities, the seasons and the divisions within these seasons over the year need to be set out in a systematic way to reflect the same weather conditions. Therefore, in these regions folk calendars do not vary much from the solar calendar, since both of them share the same principles. Still, we can observe differences with various causes in the naming and division of the months. For example, in the Cal district of Denizli, the year is divided into eight months and each season consists of two months.

Spring: March (22nd March-5th May)

Hidirellez: (5th May-21st June)

Summer: Solstice (22nd June- 13th August)

August (14th August- 21st September)

Autumn: Autumn (22nd September- 5th November) November (6th November- 21st December)

Winter: Zemheri (intense cold) (22nd December-21st January)

Extreme Winter (1st February-21st March)

In Giresun, too, we see that there are different names for the months:

Zemheri (January), Gücük (February), Abrul (April), Kiraz (June), Orak (July), Haç Ayi (September), Avara (October), Koç Ayi (November), Karakis (December). Karakis means “blackwinter” , the word black has a negative meaning here. Karakis is often used in all folk calendars to define a month or some parts of the winter. Agricultural workers are unable to work at these times of the winter, and these are particularly difficult times for them. One period of time, called avara (vagabond), indicates that planting activities are over and that agricultural workers now have a lot of free time on their hands.

In most folk calendars, February is called as Gücük (small) to to the fact it is comparativelt short. 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).
In Anatolian calendars, apart from the mating of rams, there are also other specially-named periods defining seasons or months, such as “the shedding of semen”, “the month of the lamb” (this refers to March in the Kars region) and “head of semen”. Of course, these particularly named periods do not coincide with the official calendar.

The commonest way of dividing a year into seasons is to divide it into two parts: Kasim and Hidirellez. Kasim begins with the month November as per the official calendar and lasts until the 6th May. Hidirellezbegins on the 6th May and ends in November.

In eastern parts of Anatolia and some other regions largely inhabited by Alawite communities, Nevruz (22nd March, or 9th March old-style) is considered as the beginning of the new year. This date is also celebrated and considered as the beginning of the spring and the new year. In some parts of eastern Anatolia, the belief is encounterd that that on Nevruz the Prophet Noah left his ark on Mount Ararat and walked to the Sürmeli temple with people gathering around him. According to the beliefs of the Narlidere Tahtacilari (an Alawite group), His Grace Ali was born on Nevruz, and Nevruz is the beginning of the days of summer. “God created long days in summer so that endless work might end, and created short days in winter so that insufficient food should become sufficient”. The Tahtacilar also regard Friday as the birthday of Ali.

In most parts of Anatolia, during the countdown from winter to summer, some days in a two month period are referred to within a countdown system begin with nine and then seven, five, three and finally one.

The following explains how these days are listed in Gaziantep:

Seven: end of January and three weeks of February, five: end of February and three weeks of March, three: end of March and first week of April, one: end of April and first week of May. These numbers (nine, seven....) also show how many days are left until the next new moon. This tradition of the Turkish folk calendar was set down in a Turkish-Arabic dictionary written in 1551 on Ottoman territory. In this dictionary, December is referred to as “nine”.
At the same time, the division of the year is also linked to the stars. The star ”Ulker” begins to appear in November and fades away in May (hidirellez).
Examples of Names Given to Days (Diskaya village in Usak)
Sunday: Girey

Monday: Gula Bazari

Tuesday: Gula Bazar Ertesi

Wednesday: Esme Bazari

Thursday: Cumasami

Friday: Cuma

Saturday: Cumartesi