Hidirellez: A Celebration of Magic, Wishes, and Hope
May 5th has always been a day I look forward to. It is a night of magic, a night of wishes, and a night of hope. My mother would get small pieces of paper and a pen ready for us to jot down our wishes after dinner. Then we would crumble the pieces of paper and bury them in a potted plant in our small apartment. Normally, we would need roses to bury our wishes under, but the limitations of living in an apartment in a big city forced us to improvise. The next morning, we would get up, not at the crack of dawn, not as we were supposed to, but around 9am to pick up our wishes and walk over to the seaside in solitude. As we closed our eyes and focused on our wishes, we would release our tiny pieces of paper into the cold water of the Marmara Sea.
This is the arrival of Spring, Hidirellez, a tradition that dates back to pre-Islamic Central Asian Turkic culture. “Hıdırellez or Hıdrellez (Turkish: Hıdırellez or Hıdrellez, Azerbaijani: Xıdır İlyas or Xıdır Nəbi, Crimean Tatar: Hıdırlez, Romani language: Ederlezi) is celebrated as the day on which the Prophets Hızır (Al-Khidr) and Ilyas (Elijah) met on Earth. Hıdırellez starts on May 5 night and falls on May 6 in the Gregorian calendar and April 23 (St. George's day for the Christians) in the Julian calendar.” According to some belief, Hizir obtained his immortality after drinking the water of life and has walked the earth ever since, especially in the spring, to bring people good health, prosperity, and even fertility.
There are some other rituals practiced on the night of Hidirellez. The most common one, as I did with my mother, is writing one’s wishes on a piece of paper and throwing it out to a body of water. The other version that my Aunt used to do is to draw one’s wishes under a rose on its soil. For instance, if my Aunt wanted a new house, she would draw a house. I guess it is easier if you are asking for tangible items, but harder to draw if your wishes are a bit more abstract. Another ritual practice for healing or having good health is to start a fire using old belongings or branches and jump over that fire three times. Of course, there are certain riddles and prayers that come with this practice as people jump over the fire. With this ritual, it is believed that Hizir is able to ward off all the illnesses or diseases for the entire year. As the bearer of good health and happiness, Hizir walks the earth on the night of May 5th every year and makes everyone’s wishes come true.
It’s been such a great experience celebrating this magical night with my husband in the US for the last few years. Being away from the ocean in Raleigh, a nearby lake has been a perfect place to throw our wishes, though it’s been delayed this year due to COVID-19. We buried our wishes under a rose in our backyard, but we have yet to find a place for the wishes. In fact, this time, I think we will keep them in our wallets. One thing my mother taught us last year was to bury our wishes with coins for prosperity, and then mark those coins with nail polish after we pick them up from the ground and put them in our wallets so we don’t mistakenly spend them. So we will put the coins with our wishes and see what happens. Either way, we are happy to celebrate the beginning of Spring/Summer and appreciate the hope it brings amidst a global pandemic.
Hidirellez has been recognized a cultural heritage by UNESCO.