Tag Archives: turkey

Turkish Coffee Fortune Telling

Background Information: 

The informant is a residential real estate developer who learned a lot of traditions and superstitions from their mother. They currently live in Detroit, Michigan but emigrated from Turkey. 

Main Content: 

ME: So can you tell me a bit about using Turkish Coffee to tell someone’s fortune? 

GD: Yeah so, um, after you drink your Turkish coffee, in your Turkish coffee cup, its a small cup, maybe about like 5 mL ish, you turn it upside down and once the bottom is cool to the touch, um, you turn it right-side up, and there are people who claim they can tell your future and your fortune from what they see in the coffee grounds. 

ME: Do you know what they look for in the grounds? 

GD: If they see, like, it really depends on the person’s interpretation, it’s very subjective. But, like, you know, if someone sees something that looks like a mountain, one person will tell you that it looks like there will be a big obstacle in the way, while another person will tell you that it looks like you will be traveling somewhere soon. It’s very subjective, it’s like an art, really.

ME: I’ve seen you do it a number of times before, in cafes in Turkey with your friends, do you believe in it at all, or do you just do it for fun? 

GD: Kaya, some people absolutely believe in it, and they have people they go to regularly to read their fortunes. But if we’re doing it, it’s just for fun. I don’t believe in it, but there are definitely people who believe in it, and there are definitely people who know what they are talking about. 

ME: Do you know how it started, or how you learned about it? 

GD: I have no idea, you would have to look it up. My family is Turkish, and, um, I grew up with my aunts and family friends, that, after they drink their Turkish coffee, they turn their cup upside down and have their fortune read. 


This interview happened at my house. 


This tradition is very popular in Turkey. The informant is my mother, and I remember seeing her do this countless times with her Turkish friends. However, to them, it was always something that they laughed about and nobody really took it seriously. Upon further research, this is a tradition that has been around for thousands of years and can be referred to as Tasseography. Trying to find the origin of this tradition was very difficult, and I could not find a credible source citing one place where this began. However, some say that this practice did indeed begin in Ottoman Turkey in the 16th century. However, other sources say that this tradition started with reading tea leaves in ancient China, whereas others claim that it first began in Victorian England. Regardless, this is a very old tradition that has a lot of history. To Turkish culture, it is something very old and cherished, and even though some do not take it seriously, most Turkish people take pride in doing this activity, just like the informant. 

Windsor Caroussel of Nations

Background Information: 

The informant is a middle-aged person who grew up in Windsor, a city in Canada. They emigrated to Windsor from Turkey, at a young age. They are describing a festival that they remember from their childhood. 

Main Content: 

ME: Can you tell me about the Windsor Caroussel of Nations? 

ED: So there was this festival called the Caroussel of Nations when I was growing up, and you know Canada prides itself on being a multicultural society and they consider themselves a cultural mosaic, as opposed to a melting pot, like the US. They fund a lot of festivals that, you know, help people stay connected to their cultural backgrounds and stuff. So one of those things was the Caroussel of Nations and it was around Canada Day. It was a festival where all of the cultures that wanted to get involved sign up, and they get a little grant for their space, and people have arts and crafts that they sell or display, there’s some different venues that have people who do shows like cultural dancing and displays. There’s always food, of course, which is probably the biggest thing and my mom would always make Turkish shish kebabs and shish koftes and things like that. People from all the community go around and check out all of the different cultures and enjoy the food and the environment.

ME: Did you ever participate? 

ED: I used to do this Turkish dance as a kid, we used to dress up in old traditional Turkish outfits and do a traditional Turkish line dance called Halay, you know? We would do that as a display, we would be like performing monkeys for the visiting Canadians (laughs). It was a lot of fun, everyone was coming together and the whole Turkish community would come together to put this on, it was fun visiting the other communities too. I think it’s still going on today.


This interview happened at my house.  


The informant is my father and it seems that he really enjoyed it growing up. It seems like the Turkish community in Windsor would rally together to put on a good event and it would bring the community closer together. I have attended this festival once, and it is really amazing to see dozens of different cultures on display. It is also interesting to analyze the approach that Canada takes as a “cultural mosaic” as opposed to the “melting pot” here in the United States. I think that festivals like these are great examples of the difference. This festival is not about assimilating to Canadian culture at all, but it is about celebrating the folk dancing and traditional food from the countries that people immigrated from.

Turkish Comedic Tales

Background Information: 

The informant is an older person who grew up in Central Turkey in the 40s and 50s. They have now been living in the US for the last 30 years. They are describing things from their childhood. 

Main Content:

ME: Can you tell me a little bit about the Nasrettin Hoca story? 

NA: Yeah, so he (Nasrettin Hoca), goes to his neighbor and asks “Can I borrow your pan”, cooking pan you know? Then he says “Ok” and gives him the pan. And then he uses it and then puts a little pan, his own, in it, and returns the pan the nest day. Then the neighbor says, “Hoca, what is this?”. He says,” Well, your pan has given birth”. (We both laugh). “So this is yours too”. And then okay, two days later, Hoca goes back and asks for that pan, the one that he borrowed originally, and then he takes it and never gives it back. Neighbor waits for few days and then goes to Hoca and says,” Hoca, I need my pan would you give it back to me?”. Hoca responded,” I don’t have it, it died”. The neighbor asks, “Hoca, how is that possible, how can a pie die?”. Hoca responded,” Well, you believed in the birth, how come you don’t believe in death?”. 

ME: That’s really funny (laughing)


This conversation happened over a FaceTime call. 


This legend is a part of a larger collection of folk legends about this one man, Nasrettin Hoca. These tales are very popular in the Turkish oral storytelling tradition. These stories are often told to little kids to teach them life lessons, while also providing some comedic relief. The man, Nasrettin, is clearly an idiot, but his story can actually serve as a valuable life lesson to children and even people. The neighbor had no issues accepting the extra pan when Hoca told him that it had “given birth”, but was upset when Hoca took the pan and claimed that it had “died”. This oral story clearly is trying to convey the lesson of “The Golden Rule”, or treating others how you want to be treated. The neighbor could have not accepted the extra pan, in which case Hoca would not have stolen his pan. Conveying this through a comedic and fun medium is also much more entertaining and compelling to small children. For a written version of this tale, see this book: Nasrettin Hoca Hikayeleri. Hürriyet, 2015. 

Evil Eye

Main Piece. 

Informant: Yeah so in Turkey the evil eye, which is called I’m blanking on the name, it’ll come back to me. But it’s like yeah, it’s a form of protection. It protects you from you know, the evil but like more specific cases like if someone is like bad-mouthing you like talking behind your back that people in Turkey believe that if you have like an evil eye in your house or in your car or anything like it’ll protect you from-from things like that. You know it comes in different colors. It’s it’s-it’s supposed to be hung. Yeah, like in your car. People have bracelets rings they get tattoos of it. But in your home a lot of like Turkish like bazaars like the markets. They will hang it so they make like they put them in like birdhouses to like they put the evil eye design in like different like domestic objects, so that you can hang it it always has to be hanging that’s that’s something I mean, I guess like via tattoo then. I don’t know how that counts. But but in terms of like the jewelry or like the object itself, it has to be hanging because it like hangs like over you. So you want to hang it like above a door or like the entrance to your home like you walk in and it’s right there. 

Informants Relationship to the Piece. 

My informant was taught this by her parents and recalled a story of the time her mother had given her an evil eye for her car. 

Informant: When I first got my license, I was going to drive for the first time by myself in a car. She had me hang an evil eye chain on the front mirror as like protection and then when I got in a car accident, she actually was like ‘It’s because that was in your car and it protected you’, because I didn’t have any injuries. And it’s really crazy how people believe it. But my mom believes in it very much so and because of that, it’s like yeah, it’s really been passed on to me where I have one hanging right there (she points to her wall where she has a small evil eye chain-hung”


The informant is one of my friends, a 20-year-old Turkish-American theatre major at the University of Southern California. I was told this as we were hanging out in her room after I asked her about some superstitions she believes in. 


I definitely grew up seeing a lot of my friends wear an evil eye and seeing vendors who sold jewelry that contained the symbol, but I never really knew what it meant, other than being a pretty symbol. I think it’s interesting how the main purpose of the evil eye is to protect you from people bad-mouthing you behind your back, but for my informants’ family it’s become a catch-all symbol for protection, especially for their children as they begin to leave the house and become more independent, the evil eye becomes a way for the parents to keep an “eye” on their children.

Pomegranate for New Years

Main Piece:

Informant: We crack a pomegranate on New Year’s Eve, or like as soon as it like midnight again, I don’t know why, like if I asked my mom she’d be like like this just something we have to do. I’m like, okay, cool. Yeah, like I’d guess pomegranates are a symbol of life and like a new beginning kind of which is why you crack it like, you know, at midnight for the new year. But no, she takes it very seriously too. So like, for example, this past New-New Years. It was just me my mom, my sister. My dad was at work and yeah, so we watched the ball drop in Times Square. And then my mom had a pomegranate ready, like a full one, like you don’t touch it at all. And what you do is you go to your front porch or like the entrance to your house or like, wherever you want something that’s like, again, like an entry. I feel like in Turkey that that’s a lot of important like entrances of like, you know, you start something new, so you want to do it at an entrance of your life or something like symbolizes, you know, like when you walk into your home, it’s not something new. It’s a new year. So anyways, we go to our front porch and you’ve just like hold the, the pomegranate the full thing in your hand and you just drop it and you have to have a crack if it doesn’t crack, you know, you just keep going. And then and then it’s like okay, yay. Like now the new year has officially begun. So for her it didn’t it doesn’t start till then and then you you know, clean up the shells. And as many of the seeds that didn’t touch that like the seeds that are still in the pomegranate. Obviously, you throw the ones that touch the ground out and then you eat the seeds.

Relationship to the piece:

“If we don’t do it, then it doesn’t feel like the start of a new year. It doesn’t feel like the past is behind us. Like something it just kind of like commemorates a new beginning and if we don’t do it, it’s like we’re still in the old year. Kind of thing.”


The informant is one of my friends, a 20 year old Turkish American theatre major at the University of Southern California. I was told this as we were hanging out in her room after I asked her about some of the traditions she grew up with. 


I’d never heard of this tradition, but I feel like a lot of traditions surrounding the new year have to do with inviting in what you want for the New Year, but for my informant, this tradition is about welcoming in the New Year. Breaking the pomegranate is like breaking open the new year and then you have to ingest what’s been broken, you’re literally taking in the New Year. I also think it’s interesting how, for many children of immigrants we follow traditions because our parents tell us to, rather than doing it because we know exactly what it means. We just know that certain holidays don’t feel right if we don’t follow these traditions.