Christmas in Turkey

So in many countries Christmas decorations have been in the shops for a good two weeks now, and television commercials are reminding you of the limited time you have available to complete your Christmas shopping.

If you are tired of the madness and want to do something a bit different with your Christmas vacation, then why not consider a holiday in Turkey?  Of course, Fez just happens to have two Christmas tours conveniently prepared for you – see here and here 🙂 But really, Christmas and New Year are a great time of year in Turkey.

Firstly, it’s low key – Christmas is not celebrated by Muslim people, and so Christmas and Boxing Day are just normal working days.  However many secular Turkish people do celebrate new year, and so you will see Christmas trees, the odd Santa, and festive decorations up in major cities and towns.  Head to an Istanbul shopping centre and you are even likely to hear some random Christmas carols – but all of this is about the lead up to New Year’s Eve.  In tourist resort towns such as Kusadasi and Marmaris, some sympathetic hotels will put on a traditional Western-style Christmas dinner for expats and guests who may be missing Christmas back home.

Although Christmas is not celebrated in Turkey, did you know that St. Nicholas (Noel Baba in Turkish) was born a Greek in Patara, a small town in Turkey?  He was the the bishop of Myra (the town of Demre in Modern day Turkey) in the 4th Century.  He reportedly loved to give gifts in secret and was well known for doing things such as putting coins in shoes that had been left out.  This is where the concept of Santa Claus and his gift-giving by stealth originated from.

Speaking of gifts – these are not exchanged on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. in Turkey.  However on New Year’s Eve some people will give gifts but these are small and often the focus is on children.  Many families will have a special dinner together on the night of 31 December, and in the Western part of Turkey, especially in the larger cities, people will flock in droves to join the festivities at a hotel or restaurant.  And Turkish people definitely know how to celebrate – you will find buffet dinners and lots of live music and dancing, so it is worth joining in a celebration such as this if you have a chance.  The New Year’s Eve celebrations and fireworks in Taksim Square are famous all over the World and a great place to ring in the New Year.

The weather is pleasant – for sure it is cold (although some years it has been warm during the day and just cool at night), but the worst of the winter weather doesn’t set in until mid to late January.  While it is unlikely to snow in most parts of Western Turkey, there is a tiny chance of light snow in Istanbul for those who enjoy a white Christmas.

So, it might not be quite what you are used to, but a trip to Turkey for Christmas is definitely something to consider.

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