Once a year, at the end of December, Christians all around the world celebrate one of their favorite festivities: Christmas!
Sure, it goes without saying that in Turkey, where nominally 99 percent of the population is Muslim, Christmas is not an official holiday. But nonetheless, creating Christmas spirit in Turkey is not as difficult as many may guess.
There are still a number of Christians found in the country, including the official minorities, with 60,000 Armenians and 3,000 to 4,000 Greeks, as well as an estimated 12,000 Syriacs and around 10,000 Catholics and Protestants. On Christmas Eve, they all celebrate one thing: Jesus, the central figure of Christianity’s holy book, the Bible.
According to biblical accounts, Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary, who was engaged to be married to Joseph, a Jewish carpenter of the line of David from Bethlehem. One night, an angel visited her and explained that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. She would carry and give birth to this child and name him Jesus.
Unfortunately, when Mary was nearing the end of her pregnancy, a census was to be taken in what was at that time the Roman Empire and forced the couple to take off for a long and cumbersome journey to Bethlehem, where Joseph was registered. They arrived but could not find any place to stay. After being rejected at many a door, Mary had no choice but to give birth in a basic stable, where she wrapped the baby in swaddling cloth and placed it in a manger. Shepherds from the surrounding fields were told of the birth by an angel. They came, saw Jesus and left to spread the word to the world of what happened, praising and glorifying God and the birth of the “savior of the world.”
Well, this is in short what led most Christian churches to revere Jesus today as the son of God and the incarnation of God, and it is this that is celebrated every year on Christmas -- with church celebrations, lots of food and customs like gift giving, red stockings and well-decorated Christmas trees.
“But how can someone find all this in Turkey?” Well, this is a question that Jona, a Finnish exchange student currently living in Ä°stanbul, asked herself some weeks ago. Due to the fact that it is not an official holiday at universities either -- moreover, it’s exam time! -- she will pass the Christmas season far from home this year. “Surprisingly, it’s quite possible,” she found out.
Indeed, Jona did her best to get into the Christmas spirit. “The decorations are the most important thing that gets me into the Christmas mood,” she says, adding that she luckily found a whole street in Eminönü, behind the MÄ±sÄ±r ÇarÅÄ± (Egyptian Bazaar), where they were selling “lots of kitschy stuff” -- exactly what she needed. She bought candles, aroma sticks and window stickers. “You can also find really fancy things there, ranging from a blow-up Santa Claus to artificial Christmas trees and lights in all colors; everything at really cheap prices,” she says.
Finding the right Christmas tree
Jona, however, skipped the Santa Claus and bought her own tree at YÄ±ldÄ±z Park. Though, “a Christmas tree should never be missing,” she bought and decorated a Banyan tree at home with small lights and red bowls. “Funny but nice! Just make the best of it,” she laughs.
Real Christmas trees are sold every year at the Swedish furniture store IKEA, says German expat Flo. Last year, he remembers, they were around TL 100. “Not too bad, but not really worth the effort,” he said. An alternative may be artificial trees sold at KoçtaÅ, a Turkish store. There you may get a 1.83 centimeter artificial tree for half the price. “Well, everyone has his or her own taste,” Flo comments.
Generally speaking, however, in terms of decorations, expats will probably not encounter many problems in Turkey. Apart from the bazaars’ backstreets, supermarkets and shopping malls make it easier to find what you want. Warehouses sell decorative house wares as far as the eye can see. If you want to learn about their offers, all you need to do is check the shops’ Web sites and click though their products. Just keep in mind that, in Turkey, all this is still done to mark New Year’s Day rather than to celebrate Christmas. Click “YÄ±lbaÅÄ± Ürünleri” (the New Year’s Day product section).
Full Article at Todays Zaman