Looking at my various social media apps I see that Christmas is approaching rapidly. My friends and acquaintances are starting the Christmas party rounds (my favourite part of Christmas) and are no doubt burning a hole in their credit cards purchasing presents for loved ones. I am, of course, in a country where Christmas is not celebrated readily and, in fact, will fall on a school day much to Daughter’s horror.
“I am NOT going to school on Christmas Day!” she screeched at The Turk and I.
We both tried to talk to her, to explain the differences in culture and even to explain that her extended family just cannot afford to purchase expensive presents for her and her kin but sometimes you just cannot argue with an 11 year old girl. To be honest I am a little disappointed with The Turk. Christmas is an important tradition to both the Daughter and I. It is a tradition that always brought my small family together and, even though I have moved to his country, I do want a little bit of my traditions to stay with us.
I spent yesterday on the internet researching the traditions of Turkey at Christmas time. What can I work with and how can I make this special for Daughter without offending anyone? Turkey may be a predominantly Muslim country however Christian traditions are well known throughout the country. What we call a Christmas Tree is known here as a Yilbasi Agaci (New Year Tree) and presents are usually handed over on New Years Eve. I can definitely work with this tradition.
Noel Baba (Saint Nicholas or as we know him Father Christmas) was a bishop that lived in the 4th Century in a town called Myra in Asia Minor (now Turkey). His reputation of helping others less fortunate by giving gifts became the basis of Father Christmas and also why we hang stockings. Another tradition that will ensure that Daughter will have a Christmas (or New Year) to remember.
I did not forget the birth of Jesus Christ either. There is a Catholic Church in the heart of Mersin. I passed it a few weeks ago and I made a point of inquiring about Christmas sermons. Yes, they have them and yes, they are in English! Another tick on my family traditions (even though we am not Catholic).
When packing up our home in Sydney I ensured that all my Christmas decorations were packed and today being 1 December I went on the search in Mersin for a suitable Christmas tree. The Turk said it would be doubtful that I would find one but as I walked into The Forum I saw Christmas decorations everywhere! I was thrilled. Yes! No doubt the marketing Gods have been hard at work within Turkey as within minutes we had located not just a tree but all sorts of decorations including fake snow, reindeer and a Santa for the roof. The Turk reeled me in a little knowing full well that we would never have gone to this extent in Australia but I argued that this is my first Christmas away from my family and friends and I want it to be a special one. Another argument lost so I merely purchased a small tree and some lights and, adding my already large collection of ornaments this afternoon we erected our tree and I must say it looks pretty darn good.
Perhaps Christmas may not be in the same tradition as it was in Australia (after all it is usually 30 degrees and we hit the beach after lunch) but maybe we can make a few new traditions, some that she can continue when she has grown up and has her own buggerlugs running around.
Incidentally I have heard more Christmas songs today than I ever heard in Sydney.
After living in Doha, Qatar for four years, I can relate to living in a country where Christmas really isn’t celebrated. It makes it hard to celebrate when you can’t do all your normal holiday activities but it creates a great chance to start some new traditions. May you be blessed this Christmas season and find a way to bless others.
It may be worth finding where the local expats will be hanging out. I had Christmas lunch in 2003 with other yabancilar.
I just checked and I had blogged about it here: http://joe.in/?p=735
One thing you could consider doing next summer is holding a ‘Christmas in July’ when the weather and seasonal produce are far more Christmas-like 🙂
You are right Joe. I’ve got to pull my head in and start meeting more people. It’s very easy to get too comfortable in the village and never leave lol!