Turkey, as Muslim countries go, is interesting in that it’s one of the few with a secular government, and thus an inherent openness to all religious beliefs and practices. This means it’s not unusual at this time of year to see Christmas trees, decorations, and banners welcoming the holiday season.
In a typical Turkish culture mix-up of nearly Japanese-like magnitude, the Turks have combined Christmas and New Year into a single holiday on a single date. As far as they’re concerned, it’s all the same thing. Ask a Turk what date Christmas Eve is, and almost invariably he’ll look at you like you’re an idiot and say, “December 31st, of course.” If you correct him and tell him it’s a week before that, he’ll just laugh and dismiss you like you’re yanking his chain.
Scenes like the one on the left (the Christmas tree installation bearing the banner proclaiming “Happy New Year”) prevail everywhere, and as the end of the 31st approaches the Turks grab someone to kiss in preparation for the “countdown to Christmas.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to convince various Turkish people that Christmas is on the 25th. Most think I’m kidding or trying to fool them; others furrow their brows and comment that this 25th thing must be some weird made-up holiday that only I (me personally, Melissa Maples) celebrate. After all, everyone knows Christmas is on the 31st. That’s a simple fact. Duh. Even showing them evidence via Google of the real date of Christmas only provokes responses of, “oh, that’s just some internet hoax. You can find any old fake crap on the internet. We’re not that stupid.” Sigh.
Turkey is business-as-usual on the 25th, and it’s very odd indeed the first time you experience this. You wake up on Christmas morning and nothing feels different, nothing feels special. In the morning you see people heading to work as if it were any other day (and to them that’s exactly what it is). I have to admit, for the first couple of years I enjoyed this immensely. I’ve never been a fan of Christmas, and it was nice to have a break from the madness of it. This year, however, I’ll admit I’ve been trying to inject a bit of holiday spirit into the atmosphere. I haven’t gone as far as buying a Christmas tree (which you can get here fairly inexpensively), but I have a playlist of holiday songs, and I’ve tricked out my computer desktop beyond all belief. That’s enough for me, really.
With the exception of my boyfriend (who caught on fairly quickly, I have to say), I’ve given up trying to convert Turks to the idea of Christmas actually being on Christmas. When people greet me on the 31st with a kiss on either cheek and a wish of “Merry Christmas,” I just smile and nod and wish them Happy New Year in return, to which they smile and nod as if we’ve both just wished each other exactly the same thing. I know when I can’t win, and this battle is a hopeless cause, I’m afraid. Pass the egg nog.
So if your strange made-up internet hoax fake Christmas on the 25th doesn’t go as well as you hoped, feel free to pop over here and join us for the remix on the 31st. It’s guaranteed to be a drunken affair— secular government and all that. You gotta love Turkey.
And speaking of Christmas remixes, make sure you get your copy of the NCM Illegal Christmas Compilation. I found this mirror after NCM were forced to take the original down last year. So you’re welcome. And Merry Christmas (whichever one you choose to celebrate).