Turkey is a country that values the symbolic meaning of things and puts great effort toward respecting this meaning and symbolism. Let's find out about the national symbols of Turkey and the meanings of them all.
The Turkish flag consists of a white star and a crescent moon on a red background. It's a design taken from the Ottoman Empire's flag. Some legends say the founder of Ottoman Empire had a dream with a crescent moon and a star, but the Turkish flag's first version was originally used in the 18th century. The meaning of the star and the moon is up for debate. Some says the star represents the history of the Turks, some says it means freedom. One thing is certain. The flag, sometimes referred as the red banner in Turkish, means so much for Turks and is respected greatly as a uniting force all around the country.
Turkey's national animal is the grey wolf. The reason for this comes from a legend. The legend called Ergenekon tells the story of Turks leaving Asia to find a new home, and a grey wolf shows them the way to Anatolia. With this legend, the grey wolf gained an importance in Turkish stories and culture.
Grey wolves are very necessary for the balance of the ecosystem. With their hunting skills, they become an important limiting factor for their prey. In Turkey, even though they are the national animal, they have a bad image in the eyes of farmers. The population of grey wolves in Turkey now dwindles with the scared farmers and ranchers hunting them down. Nowadays, grey wolves are being reintroduced to certain areas to help them repopulate. It is believed there are about 4000-5000 grey wolves left in Turkey.
Turkey's national flower is the tulip. You may think Holland feels more like a home to tulips, but Turkey and Central Asia is where this flower is actually from. During the 16th century, tulips were taken from the wild and became a part of gardens and homes. In this same century, Holland took the first tulip to their homeland.
Another interesting thing is that in the history of Ottoman Empire, there is a period of time called the Tulip Era. The Tulip Era was famous for its beautiful gardens and lavish lifestyle, The Tulip Era gave importance to enjoying oneself and life. Tulips were more than flowers in this era, they were representing a sense of fashion and class.
Turkey's national drink is called rakı, a liquor made with twice distilled grapes and aniseed. Drinking rakı has its rules in Turkey. Rakı is served with water and Turkish dishes called meze. If you like, you can mix your rakı with water or you can have it straight. It is a very strong drink, so it is supposed to be sipped slowly while eating.
If you are celebrating, and you are with larger groups at the rakı table, these nights can go wild with everybody dancing and singing. If the night is about a heartbreak, then a chosen friend or two accompanies the friend in trouble. Everything about the ex gets analyzed and re-analyzed by this intimate group and at the end of the night it is usually realised the break up was the best thing in the long run, or the group decides to call the ex.
Another national beverage for Turkey is ayran. It is a drink made with yogurt, water and a pinch of salt. It is loved by Turks, but also an acquired taste to say the least. You might find it odd the first time you try it.
Turkey's national sport is called oil wrestling. It takes this name because contestants are completely covered in olive oil before the game starts. With the oil, the game becomes all about the style and technique since your power, your physical attributes don't matter in these slippery conditions. The aim of the game is to put your opponents back to the ground and make their belly button face the sky. The wrestlers have special pants called kıspet and they weight about 13 kilograms.
Every year, oil wrestling matches in Kırkpınar Festival happen in the same city called Edirne. The festival has happened in the same place since 1346, making it a very old tradition. The winner of the year gets to take about $100,000 worth of winnings home. Not bad, is it?