Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival was inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List on 16 November 2010. What distinguishes Kırkpınar from other wrestling events is its cultural structure that has preserved its traditional form throughout centuries. The continuation of a deeply-rooted cultural tradition by individuals, groups and communities also contributes to publicizng the concept of Intangible Cultural World Heritage.
According to the legend of the first organization of Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival, Suleyman Pasha, the son of Orhan Gazi, charges against and occupies the Byzantian city of Domuzhisar with forty soldiers, during his father’s campaign to conquer Rumelia. Upon seizing other fortresses, the vanguard of forty soldiers returns and takes a break in Samona which is now Greek territory. Forty warriors start wrestling there and it last for hours. Through hours of wrestling is said to be the names of the two brothers Ali and Selim weren’t able to defeat one another.
Years later on a Hıdrellez day (Spring Celebration), the brothers start wrestling again on th emeadows of Ahıköy. Brother wrestlers weren’t able to defeat other one despite wrestling all day, continue to wrestle in the light of candles and lanterns during the night. However, they are killed outright. Their friends leave, after burying them under a fig tree. After many years when they go to the same area, they see a strong spring. Upon this, in memory of the deceased laying in the ground, they name the place “Kırkpınar”.
At the end of the Balkan Wars and World War I, Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival was organized in Virantekke, which is between Edirne and Mustafapaşa Road. After the Establishment of the Republic, the festival has been organized in the Sarayiçi distict of Edirne since 1924.
Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festivals had been organized by Kırkpınar Ağa’s (patrons), who bore the expenses of the awards and hosting guests. However, in 1928, the patronage did not have any candidates as a result of the nation-wide economical problems and thus, Kızılay (Red Crescent) and Society for the Protection of Children became responsible for the expenses. From 1946 on, the Municipality of Edirne has been organizing the historical Kırkpınar Oil Wrestling Festival.