Turkey celebrates Children’s Day and National Sovereignty Day on the 23rd of April each year. The day is known as Ulusal Egemenlik ve Cocuk Barami.
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During the War of Independence in 1920, the first National Assembly took place on April 23 and it is said that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk dedicated the new republic to the children of Turkey. Between 1923 and 1934, 23 April started the Grand National Assembly as well as a week dedicated to celebrations for children.
The struggle for independence began on May 19, 1919, leading to the liberation of Anatolia and the international recognition of Turkey’s borders by the Treaty of Lausanne. The occupation of Izmir by Greece and the atrocities committed against Turkish citizens led to national resistance and, eventually, a war of independence under Ataturk, a young Ottoman military officer.
When the Allies occupied Istanbul and the Ottoman Parliament was disbanded, Ataturk pushed for a new legislative body in Turkey.
Ataturk was named the first president of the Turkish Republic. He determined that there should be no power “above the assembly,” setting the stage for the Republic of Turkey to take over for the Ottoman Empire. The Assembly established an Army that aided in the defeat of the Allied forces and created a secular, democratic republic.
Turkey was the first country to create a holiday dedicated to children. In 1925, the World Conference in Geneva recognised the Turkish holiday and, in 1980, UNICEF created International Children’s Day which is celebrated on 1 June.
Celebrations and Traditions
Children’s Day and National Sovereignty Day are recognised by memorials, wreath laying and speeches throughout Turkey. The most popular memorial is at Ataturk’s Mausoleum in Ankara which is attended by many high-ranking government officials.
Because it is a public holiday, all banks, public offices and schools are closed on Children’s Day as are many businesses.
Children throughout the country are given seats in the government and allowed to control the country for one day. Two children are chosen to act as President and Prime Minister for the day, carrying out official duties and appearing on television. Many schools hold variety shows, speeches and readings. There are also parades throughout the country along with activities and speeches by local officials.
Over the past few years, children from 14 countries are invited to celebrate Children’s Day, staying with Turkish families for a week and taking part in the festivities.