Obviously Christmas doesn’t officially happen here, this being a Muslim country and all that. But Christmas is nothing if not a combination of the myths, cultures, legends and traditions of many creeds and countries even if the name that the holiday currently enjoys comes from Christianity.
Turkey, loathe to think that a good party is happening and it isn’t invited is slowly importing certain aspects of Christmas into the New Year celebrations in the same way that it rebranded St Valentines day as Love Day, and decorations, lights, trees and Santa Claus’ are steadily invading the shops and public places in the more cosmopolitan areas of the country.
Christmas trees are called New Year trees here and Santa is the fat man in red of popular culture. He has lost his holy Saint Nicholas tag despite being born in Lycia, but he is still a gift giver because, as the wife of my Engineer once pointed out snippily to her husband, “If the rest of the children in the world are getting presents our daughter should have presents too. So put the Santa suite on!” That’s very Turkish thinking!
Turkish people are also likely to leave decorations up all year as they find them pretty and so discovering a jolly glittery Santa Candle on a summer table isn’t that unusual.
This year I won’t be with my family for Christmas, I’m sad about that, particularly about missing seeing my daughter decorate her own home for her first Christmas there, so I’m going to try and generate a little Christmas spirit by importing international Christmas traditions into my home here.
From seasonal recipes to decorations to trips out I’m going to try and sample all the Advent and Christmas specialities that living abroad in an international community exposes me to. Tomorrow I’m off to the German Christmas market just outside Izmir. On Sunday I’m making Lebkuchen a traditional German ginger bread type cookie which is served on the First Sunday in Advent. I have a trip to Samos planned to see the Greek Christmas decorations and to do some shopping and we’re going to the carol service at The Virgin Mary’s House near Ephesus on the 21st December.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales was always one of my favourite books, well it would be really as I come from West Wales, so I’m doing my own version over the next few weeks, An Expat’s Christmas in Turkey and I’ll try not to go overboard on the Dylan Thomas type descriptions.
Bring on the festivities!