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Bojuk gejesi – an ancient tradition that is being revived

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“Bojuk”, according to legend, is the name of a creature in white clothes who visits homes and instills fear in people

Ominous white figures with scary painted faces roam Turkish Thrace on the coldest night of January, banging on the windows of houses and scaring the owners.

This tradition, which dates back to the Middle Ages, has been gaining in popularity in recent years.

The Edirne village of Chamladja has become the center of the celebrations for Bojuk Gejesi.

“Bojuk”, according to legend, is the name of a creature in white clothes who visits homes and instills fear in people. To scare away evil spirits, young people from the village disguise themselves as Bojuk and go around the houses. they put on white robes or sheets, painted their faces, and visited their neighbors, shouting “Bojuk is coming.”

Bojuk Night, or Bojuk Gejesi, is associated with other traditions. On this night, pumpkins are always roasted in the homes, because it is believed that the spirit known as Bojuk will not visit and do harm to a house where there is a cooked pumpkin. Corn cooked in snow water, pancakes called aktma, pears, quinces, walnuts, peanuts, almonds are usually present on the table on this day. The night is also associated with divination about the future – in the evening people throw a piece of wood into the water and if it is frozen in the morning, then in their home during the year there will be health and prosperity, according to the belief.

Last year, the holiday was not held in Chamladja due to the pandemic, and this year it was scheduled for January 15, but was later postponed indefinitely after an increase in coronavirus infections.

The organizers of the events for Bojuk Gedges in the village, where the ancient tradition is attracting more and more interest, considered a thematic celebration this year, dedicated to the second season of the series “Outlander”.

“We will wear special clothing with embroidery from the 17th-18th century,” Tahir Demirel, coordinator of the Bojuk Gejesi project, told the DHA.

However, it was later announced that the events would be postponed this year, as a record number of coronavirus-infected people had been registered in Chamladja. The local mayor’s office and the Bojuk Gejesi Organizing Committee announced their joint decision to postpone the event due to the changed conditions “for a further date when the risk will be lower”.

In the meantime, however, another municipality in Turkish Thrace has already held a similar holiday. Residents of the town of Babaeski in Kirklareli district dressed in white robes and painted their faces to celebrate the holiday they call “Christmas” on the night of January 8th. In essence, he repeats the rituals of the Bojuk Gejesi, a procession of masked men who go around to chase away evil spirits.

To heighten the atmosphere of ghostliness and fear, the municipality played horror movie sound effects on street speakers.

Ersan Czolgechen, the mayor of the local municipality of Büyükmander, explained to the DHA that the locals celebrate “Christmas” on a different date, so that it coincides with the coldest day for the region. This year it was January 8.

“We have been celebrating this tradition for years,” Cholgechen said.

However, the promotion of the holiday in Buyukmander was not unequivocally accepted by all and became an occasion for regional rivalry with Chamladja.

Tahir Demirel, coordinator of the Bojuk Gejesi project in Chamladja, complained some time ago about celebrating Christmas in Babaeski, accusing him of imitation. According to him, Chamladja has been making efforts for years to popularize the tradition, and in 2011 it registered the Bojuk Gedgesi trademark. In 2017, the Edirne Regional Directorate of Culture and Tourism applied to include the Bojuk Gedges in the national cultural heritage list, he explained.

“Cultural heritage cannot be appropriated by a certain group,” countered the then mayor of Buyukmander, Sertac Baliemez. “This is not theft of intellectual property, but culture. This is what we have celebrated under the name of Christmas,” Baliemez was quoted as saying by Milliyet.

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