Today is Youth and Sports Day, but the holiday was established to commemorate the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence. On May 19, 1919, Atatürk arrived in Samsun to rally his troops to challenge the Allied powers, and their efforts to carve what remained of the Ottoman Empire between themselves.
This day is also widely recognized as Atatürk’s birthday. While his exact birthday is unknown, he famously declared that he deeply resonated with the spirit of May 19th and felt this day could be his birthday. Thus, May 19th has great cultural and historical significance, as well as contemporary relevance. On this day, Turkey comes together to remember the achievements of their great leader, and celebrate the athletic accomplishments of the next generation of Turks.
Today is Istanbul Independence Day. This holiday celebrates the liberation of Istanbul during the War of Independence. Following the loss of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the Allied powers (led by France, Russia and the United Kingdom) controlled the land which once fell under the Ottoman Empire. French, British and Italian troops occupied Istanbul. Today’s holiday celebrates the victory of armed Turkish forces in Istanbul, an essential and significant step on the road for independence, leading to the foundation of Modern Turkey. While many people in Istanbul are forced to go to work and treat this day as any other, the students, staff and teachers of the public and private schools in Istanbul receive the day off. I will spend my day with friends of mine from work, sipping coffee over a long and indulgent Turkish breakfast.