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‘Tis The Month of Turkmen Melons

Food means many things to many cultures, and many-a-time, foods themselves are seen as cultural symbols. From pasta to pirogues—pilaf to pad thai, national foods and cultural dishes nourish neighbors, invite friends, educate travelers, sooth souls, distinguish one traditional group from another and so much more.

On a grand and far-reaching scale, specific foods even have their own exclusive days, from National Cheesecake Day (July 30th) to National Zucchini Day (August 8th). Particular to Central Asia, in regards to national food days, Turkmenistan claims the famous day for MelonsRadio Free Europe/Radio Liberty educates:

“Since 1994, the second Sunday of August has been an official holiday recognizing the importance of melons in Turkmenistan’s culture and history.”

On National Melon Day, which recently passed according to the 2013 calendar year, melons—including the ever-famous muskmelon breed—are given awards, fill overflowing stalls at markets and give Turkmens a delicious reason to celebrate their culture. On this day, “multiple fairs and market venues will lure guests with golden melon mountains inviting them to taste sweet and fragrant fruit grown in Turkmenistan’s five regions.”

Established by former Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, and more sophisticated than an average day on which melons are eaten, Melon Day is an annual public holiday in Turkmenistan. Traveler UZ further explains:

“In August, Turkmenistan marks a unique holiday ranked as national one – the Melon Day. To an ignorant person it will be difficult to understand why this month was selected to honor the popular dainty. The melon harvesting season is long. The first fast-ripening sorts are picked in the end of May and thick-peel winter melons picked up in the end of October do not disappear from local bazaars till the start of spring. And the sweetest patches of braided dried melons are sold in Ashgabat bazaars all year round.”

About Melon Day in 2012, and on the political prowess of the beautiful fruit, Global Voices blogger Anna Fergana says:

“The melon’s official holiday was initiated by Sapamurat Niyazov, the fruity First President of Turkmenistan in 1994. Each year, the head of state makes a congratulatory speech and demands a celebration of the Turkmen melon. The belief that Turkmenistan’s melons and watermelons are the best in the world goes unchallenged in the country.”

Even further back, in 2005, Al Jazeera reported on Melon Day, saying:

“The nation currently grows 500 varieties of melon, including the Czar Melon, grown to honour President Saparmurat Niyazov, and the Golden Age, meant to symbolise prosperity under the president, the Agriculture Ministry said.”

Have you eaten your Turkmen melons this month or enjoyed the festivities celebrating the cultural fruit? If so, tell neweuerasia about your sweet experiences!

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Photo: Web Screenshot from Turkmenistan: The Golden Age

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