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Turkish Cultural Center Queens

Ramadan Celebration 2012 in Sunnyside

turkish cultural center queensAugust 19, 2012 / Sunnyside / Ethnic & Religious Culture / Queens Buzz. Ramadan 2012 began on Friday, July 20th and ended Saturday, August 18th. Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic year and it is a time when all Muslims fast. There are a number of similarities between the Ramadan thirty day fasting period and the six week Christian Lenten period of abstinence.

At the end of the fasting period, Muslims celebrate for three days by both welcoming and visiting family and friends in their homes. The end of the fast is called Eid al Fitr, and it began Sunday, August 19th this year.

The Turkish Cultural Center [TCC] of Queens invited the Sunnyside and surrounding community to share in a Ramadan celebration last week at Noonan Park in Sunnyside. I attended the celebration on the last evening, where I met and spoke with Oguztan [pronounced O ooh zan] Turan, president of the TCC Queens.

The goal of the Ramadan Celebration, like many of the Turkish Cultural Center’s programs, is to foster cross cultural interactions to enhance cultural understanding. This has a dual impact, as it helps Turkish immigrants adapt to their new homeland by providing venues for interactions with their American neighbors; and conversely it offers Americans an opportunity to better understand the rich tapestry of the ancient Turkish culture from which the immigrants come.

Click here to read more about the Turkish Cultural Center Queens and the Ramadan Celebration in Sunnyside.


Turkish Cultural Center Queens

Ramadan Celebration 2012 in Sunnyside

August 19, 2012 / Sunnyside / Ethnic & Religious Culture / Queens Buzz. I arrived just after sundown, which is when Muslims are allowed to eat during Ramadan. As I approached the Ramadan tent I noticed a long line leading into it. I found Oguztan, who was caring for his daughter as his wife conversed with friends.

Ramadan Celebration in Queens - Sunnyside

Inside the tent there were about a half dozen servers who kept the line moving, providing visitors with lentil soup, chicken and vegetable sauce on a bed of rice, a salad and baklava. The origins of both lentil soup and baklava can be traced back to the Mediterranean / Middle Eastern regions of the world, and more specifically to ancient Greece and the Ottoman Turks. The Ramadan Celebration menu may change from evening to evening; and the food is prepared by NYC Turkish restaurants. The entire event is paid for by donations from the Turkish Cultural Center membership and their sponsors.

Sunnysiders Celebrating Ramadan 2012

Oguztan and I joined Sunnyside jazz musician, Paul Maringelli [aka Bix] for the meal. While digesting our meal we also met Barbara Baruch, Public Affairs Associate of NYC, Wassiem Boctor of Rego Park, Jalal Coduroglu, an Engineer, Asim Kaban, and a traditionally-dressed Turkish speaking woman whose name I didn’t catch, but who also seemed to enjoy the cross-cultural experience. See photos in slide show.

8th Annual Ramadan Celebration by Turkish Cultural Center Queens

Oguztan told me that this was the 8th year that the Turkish Cultural Center hosted this event in Sunnyside and that its popularity continues to grow. This year they hosted between 400 – 450 people on three of the four nights [August 14 – 17], except for Wednesday night when it rained all day. Attendance Wednesday night dropped to about 200 – 250 people.

Islam, Christianity & Judaism - Cultural Similarities

Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, has changed over the centuries; and like Judaism and Christianity, there are different sects within the religion / culture. Christianity is essentially divided into three major groups: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants. Judaism is divided into two major groups: Orthodox and Reformed. And Islam is divided into two major groups: Sunnis [traditional / orthodox] and Shia.

The differences in the Sunni and Shia traditions date back over a thousand years and originate with different interpretations of the Hadiths. The Hadiths are supporting documents and accounts of the prophet’s life, which are used to determine the proper code of conduct and the correct interpretation of Islamic law. About three quarters of Muslims are Sunnis and the remaining quarter are Shias.

Turkish Cultural Center Queens - TCC Sunnyside

But I digress. I queried Oguztan about the Turkish Cultural Center and its origins. In 2003 the Turkish American Multi-Cultural Education Foundation began in Sunnyside. Its name was changed to the Turkish Cultural Center in 2008, which was about the same time that Oguztan became the Sunnyside organization’s president. Around the same time there were about a dozen similar Turkish organizations in the NYC area, all of which had similar missions to the Turkish Cultural Center in Sunnyside, so they decided to create a federation to enable the organizations to easily work together on some of their events.

Turkish Cultural Center Queens - Mission

The Turkish Cultural Center mission is: To help Turkish immigrants adapt to American culture, while preserving Turkish cultural within the American cultural framework. This mission seems in alignment with what has occurred within some of the early and recent waves of immigrants. For example the Italians, Irish and Mexicans have worked to preserve some of their cultures, while becoming a part of the great American melting pot - where cultures from all around the world meet. On the one hand immigrants and their families become absorbed by American culture on the one hand – Americanized so-to-speak; on the other hand parts of their culture influence American culture [and the American perspective] and in time become a part of it.

Queens is the Great American Melting Pot

For example most 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation Italian, Irish and Mexican Americans are more likely to think of themselves as Americans, than of representatives of their home countries. And yet Italian foods like pizza and pasta are considered to be as American as apple pie; Mexican salsa has become more popular in the U.S. than catsup; and who can think of going through the autumn without Halloween, which is an end of harvest festival that originated in Ireland. Cross-cultural diffusion was once a byproduct of wars. Today it is a byproduct of immigration, trade and travel.

Turkish Culture - History, Architecture & Cuisine

Oguztan and I discussed some of Turkey’s cultural heritage before saying goodbye. It’s worth noting that Turkey is home to some of the world’s great history; including the landing place of Noah’s ark, the ruins of Troy [as in Helen of Troy], the birthplace of Jesus’ mother Mary, Istanbul was once named Constantinople which was the capitol of the Eastern Roman Empire, Istanbul is home to two of the greatest and most beautiful mosques in the world, and within Turkey lies the Bosporus strait which was once called the crossroads of the world – because it was and still is where Europe meets Asia / the Middle East.

And for those of you who relish exotic cuisines, it’s also worth noting that the Turks created one of the world’s great cuisines. Ottoman style cooking originated in the Ottoman Empire, which was a descendant of Byzantium [the Eastern Roman Empire].

Turkish Cultural Center Events in Queens

The Turkish Cultural Center in Sunnyside sponsors a number of events such as this to which the general public is welcome to attend including films with English subtitles, cooking classes, arts & crafts classes and some special events such as the Ramadan Celebration. See some related links below. And Salaam Alaikum [peace be to you].


Photos of Turkish Cultural Center Queens - In Sunnyside

The following slide show contains photos taken at the Ramadan Celebration in Sunnyside. Click here to go directly into the photo album containing photos of Turkish Cultural Center Queens Ramadan Celebration 2012 in Sunnyside.


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