When I was 5 years old, I lived with my grandparents in Turkey for a year. It was before I started kindergarten in NJ, and I was very young. But I still remember a few things, in particular the scents surrounding me and how people would constantly come over to our house.

My grandparents’ home smelled like the classic scent of kolonya, with a mix of coal they used to fuel the stove.  A smokey scent with the piercing burst of lemon, bergamot, citrus, rose, and nostalgia. 

My grandparents came from very humble means, yet there was a constant supply of love, food, kolonya and of course Turkish tea. This was always brewing in the hope that an unexpected guest would come knocking on the door.  You see, the idea of having guests over was an honorable event, especially back in the day.  It meant someone cared for you and you returned that favor by overwhelming them with hospitality.  There is NOTHING more important in the Turkish culture than community and there are endless ways to celebrate that. Kolonya is just one of them.


Hospitality had become an art form, and generosity a form of currency to thank your guests.  The first five minutes of someone entering your home were spent trying to “hosgeldin” them.  Nonetheless, these words were uttered with the coming of each new guest, whether it be into one’s home, store, or office.  The guest would reply with “hosbulduk”, which translates to “joy found”.  They would quickly take a seat after being offered slippers and wait for the youngest of the household to offer kolonya. That was me, of course.   I also realize now that this ritual was a way to teach younger kids to respect their elders and enjoy their presence.

Accordingly, Hosgeldin is synonymous with kolonya, which means that joy is synonymous with kolonya. It is the ultimate sign of hospitality, generosity, and joy. It reminds me of our family being over, happy to see you. 

When the pandemic started, I quickly realized how the absence of this tradition contributed to the growing problem of loneliness and isolation. The idea of people coming over and communing in one place began to feel like a distant memory. We wanted to help re-infuse that back into society.  We wanted to remind people that the joy of hospitality still exists, in the little moments and memories of things like kolonya.  I can’t wait to welcome my guests to a dinner party with my Kolonya.  I will know how special that moment is.

 Hosgeldin to America, Kolonya. You are going to love it here. There is a lot of joy to be found. 


by Seda Bilginer