Islam follows the lunar calendar, which is shorter than the Gregorian calendar by 11 days. The result is that Muslim religious holidays fall on different dates each year.
For an exhaustive list of events beyond those listed here, check http://events.frommers.com, where you'll find a searchable, up-to-the-minute roster of what's happening in cities all over the world.
Eastern Orthodox Easter Sunday. If Istanbul was the birthplace of Eastern Orthodox Christianity (simply known as Christianity, in the day), then the Greek Patriarchate of Istanbul represents the bulls-eye for observance of the holiest day in Christendom, Eastern style. Mass is celebrated annually, led by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, with prayers and candlelight. April 24, 2011; April 15, 2012. tel. 0212/531-9670; www.ecupatriarchate.org.
International Istanbul Film Festival, Istanbul. This festival lasts 2 weeks, from the last Saturday of March to mid-April, offering movie buffs the rare opportunity to view Turkish movies with English subtitles. For schedules and tickets, contact travel agencies in Istanbul or the festival itself (tel. 0212/334-0700; www.iksv.org). Early April.
Presidential Cycling Tour, Istanbul. Turkey's Presidential Cycling Tour is an eight-stage, 1,212km (753-mile) version of the Tour de France beginning in Istanbul. After sprinting out of the proverbial gate in Sultanahmet Square, cyclists follow the Old City walls between Yenikapi and Eminönü before ending, to great fanfare, where they started. Second week in April. tel. 0312/310-9613; www.presidentialtourofturkey.com.
Tulip Festival, Istanbul. The tulip, widely accepted as having been exported to Holland and cultivated by appreciative Turkish 17th-century society, is celebrated annually in Istanbul. For about 2 weeks in April, city parks and roadside medians flower with a stunning variety of vibrant colors. Best viewing is in Emirgan Park, Yildiz Park, and Gülhane Park.
National Sovereignty and Children's Day, Istanbul and Ankara. This day celebrates the anniversary of the first Grand National Assembly, which met in Ankara in 1920 and was later decreed by Atatürk as Children's Day. The day is marked by parades and processions by schoolchildren. Banks and public offices are closed. April 23.
Hidrellez Festival. An ancient celebration of the arrival of spring feted with traditional spring foods, where wishes are attached to Nahils or "wish trees." The day is marked with ethnic music from the Balkans and culminates with acrobats jumping through fire at midnight. May 5. Ahirkapi Sok. and surrounding streets. www.hidrellez.org.
Youth & Sports Day. Atatürk arrived in Samsun on this day in 1919, which signifies the beginning of the Independence War. Students nationwide participate in athletic games, gymnastic events, and parades. May 19.
Fatih Festivities, Istanbul. This festival commemorates the conquest of Byzantium in 1453 by Sultan Fatih Mehmet with local celebrations. May 29.
International Istanbul Music Festival. This world-class festival features big names in classical, opera, and ballet. Past artists have included La Scala Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Tokyo String Quartet, Itzhak Perlman, Idil Biret, and Burhan Öçal. For schedules and tickets, contact the Istanbul Foundation for Culture & Arts (tel. 0212/293-3133; www.iksv.org). Mid-June to mid-July.
Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Tournaments, Edirne and in villages around the country. This revered national sport involves the fittest of Turkish youth and astonishing amounts of olive oil to prevent the opponent from getting a good grip. The event is usually accompanied by a colorful market and fair. Late June to early July.
International Jazz Festival, Istanbul. Performances are held at various locations around the city. For schedules, dates, and tickets, contact the Istanbul Foundation for Culture & Arts (tel. 0212/293-3133; www.iksv.org).
Zafer Bayrami (Victory Day). This national holiday commemorates the decisive victory over the invading Greek armies during the War of Independence in 1922. Parades run through the main streets, and if you go soon, you may still brush elbows with some surviving vets. August 30.
International Istanbul Biennial. The Istanbul Foundation for Culture & Arts (www.iksv.org) puts on this major visual-arts event organized around a current political or philosophical theme. Artists are selected from over 45 countries, whose innovative exhibitions are displayed around town, in clever venues such as 500-year-old warehouses, deconsecrated churches and synagogues, and even commuter ferries. Mid-September to early November 2011.
Seker Bayrami (or Ramadan Barami). This is the 3-day celebration punctuating the end of Ramadan. Presents and sweets are given to the children (seker means sugar in Turkish), and the Turkish Delight industry makes a killing. September 9 to September 11, 2010; August 30 to September 1, 2011.
Akbank Jazz Festival. This 2-week-long festival brings the blues simultaneously to Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. Now in its 17th season, the festival hosts world-renowned performers in the cities' most atmospheric venues (tel. 0212/252-3500; www.akbanksanat.com). Last 2 weeks in October.
Cumhuriyet Bayrami (Republic Day). This event celebrates the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923. Parades, public speeches, and fireworks displays are just a few of the organized events, but individual Turkish families do their own celebrating as well. October 29.
Anniversary of Atatürk's Death. Turkey comes to a grinding halt at exactly 9:05am, when the population pays its respects to the father and founder of the Republic. Rather than a moment of silence, the streets and waterways echo with the blare of car horns and foghorns. Atatürk-related activities are planned for the day, such as conferences, speeches, and exhibitions, in addition to a memorial concert at the Atatürk Cultural Center. November 10.
Efes Pilsen Blues Festival. In its 20th year as of 2010, this touring blues extravaganza transports Turks to America's deep South -- at least in spirit -- by way of performers that in past years have included John Lee Hooker, Bernard Allison, John Primer, Adolphus Bell, and Luther Johnson. Shows are scheduled for Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, Çanakkale, Kayseri, Denizli, and Konya, in addition to a number of other cities. First week of November through second week of December. tel. 216/444-3337; www.efesblues.com.
Kurban Bayrami. In the Koranic version of an old favorite, it was Abraham's son Ismael, not Isaac, who was spared the knife. Kurban Bayrami celebrates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, with 4 days of feasting and a death sentence to an alarming number of sheep, the likes of which one only sees around Thanksgiving. In fact, the 4-day festival of sacrifice is the culmination of the Hajj (holy pilgrimage), and much of the meat is given to the poor. November 16 to November 19, 2010; November 6 to November 9, 2011.
Contemporary Istanbul Art Festival. The Financial Times has predicted Istanbul to be the next major emerging market in art, providing momentum to Istanbul as a new art destination. The festival, now in its fifth year, hosts individual artists, international and Turkey-based galleries, and collectors for 4 days in early December. tel. 0212/244-7171; www.contemporaryistanbul.com.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.