ANKARA – Turkey marked April 23 National Sovereignty and Children’s Day with restricted celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the country where a curfew was imposed on April 23, only a few children and state officials attended the ceremonies in person. Some events turned to online platforms and a wider segment of people was contented with decorating the windows of their homes with flags.

April 23, 1920, is the date of the opening of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the first Parliament of the Republic of Turkey. However, in 1929, the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, started the April 23 festival as a gift to the children of the world. In 1929, it was also celebrated as Children’s Day for the first time. In 1979, children from many countries of the world began coming to Turkey, making the day internationally recognized. Turkey is the first and only country to dedicate a national day to its children.

For the past two years, the celebrations for Turkey’s Children’s Day have evolved just like all other things in our lives. Thus, the day traditionally marked outdoors with children showcasing their dancing skills, reciting poems and singing songs is a muted occasion this year.

Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop, National Education Minister Ziya Selçuk and their delegations of officials attended an annual ceremony and laid a wreath at Atatürk‘s mausoleum in Ankara.

Selçuk will speak with children from all 81 provinces of Turkey in an online meeting after the ceremonies in Ankara. In addition, Selçuk encouraged children and their families to adopt saplings to honor this special day. The minister also adopted five saplings in the scope of the campaign.

To mark National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, many skyscrapers across Istanbul were decorated with giant Turkish flags. The graceful crescent and star flags were hung on skyscrapers in Istanbul’s business center Maslak, drawing the attention of many Istanbulites.