Lamp Nights

Lamp Nights (Kandil Geceleri, Candle Feasts)

Five nights on the Muslim calendar: the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal; first of Rajab; 27th of Rajab; 15th of Shaban; and 27th of Ramadan
Turkish Muslims keep mosques lit all night five times a year in order to commemorate five religious festivals associated with events in the life of the prophet Muhammad: Mawlid-al-Nabi, the Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (12th of Rabi al-Awwal); the Conception of the Prophet Muhammad (1st of Rajab); Laylat-al-Miraj, the Prophet Muhammad's Night Journey and Ascent (27th of Rajab); Laylat al-Bara'ah, the Night of Forgiveness (15th of Shaban); and Laylat al-Qadr, the Night of Power (27th of Ramadan). As a whole, these commemorative evenings are known as Kandil Geceleri . Kandil means "candle," and the name translates as Candle Feasts or Lamp Nights.
On these special nights, Turkish Muslims believe that a special holiness prevails. They attend prayer services at the mosque and engage in such devotional activities as reciting poems or singing songs about the Prophet Muhammad. Ring-shaped sesame-seed biscuits known as Kandil Simidi are associated with Lamp Nights, as are Lokma, fritters drenched in sweet syrup. In past generations, young people paid visits to their elders on Lamp Nights as a sign of respect, though in recent times a phone call is considered by many to be sufficient.
The custom of Lamp Nights dates to the 16th century, when Sultan Selim II ordered that lamps or candles be placed in mosque minarets to announce the five special holy days. On Lamp Nights in modern times, mosques are brightly illuminated with electric lights, including garlands of bulbs looped between minarets. Some strict Muslims dislike the displays, believing that they imitate the Orthodox Christian practice of displaying lights at Christmastime to mark the birth of Christ.
Turkish Tourist Office
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UndIslam-2004, pp. 280, 379