Monday, December 26, 2011

Totally Different from New Years
In my opinion, it's a common misconception among Turks that they celebrate Christmas. More than once, I've brought up Christmas and gotten the response "We celebrate Christmas on the 31st"

No, you don't celebrate Christmas on the 31st, you celebrate New Years on the 31st.  New Years is also celebrated in the USA, and (altering a line borrowed from "The Latke who Wouldn't Stop Screaming") Christmas and New Years are two completely different things!

Now that I have that little rant out of the way, it should be mentioned that I have been incredibly blessed with all of the positive interactions Ive had with people regarding Christmas.  I received my first present about a week ago from my host sister's future father in law, who found me a large blow up Santa with a squeaking left foot to help me get in the Christmas spirit.

Ive had more than one person ask me when Christmas is, and I have been wished countless "Merry Christmas" es fromm people, from my classmates to my Islamic Religion teacher, who don't even celebrate Christmas.

Anyone who has visited Turkey (especially Istanbul) this time of year can attest to the abundance of Christmas (in fact they are celebrating New years) decorations in streets and stores. I've even seen a few "Merry Christmas" es (in English) from chain stores sporting the same decorations in all their stores throughout the world.

In summary, there is no lack of Christmas (New Years!) spirit this time of year. While there is no specific observance for Christmas day itself, the people of Turkey have not forgotten that there's was the country where the fabled Santa Clause (St. Nicholas) actually existed all those years ago. Also, no Turkish person would turn down an excuse to be festive.

My Christmas started the day before with my journey to Istanbul to celebrate Christmas Eve with the other exchange students there.

Anyone well acquainted with me knows that me traveling by myself through one of the biggest cities in the world cannot be without an  interesting story or two.  I will not write a play-by-play here, but I will say it involved me handing my phone to a complete (and confused) stranger so that she could confirm to my counselor that I was in the right place.  It also involved me missing my bus stop, ending up the only person on the bus, and asking the bus driver to turn around and bring me back to the right stop, which he did.  I am eternally grateful to the helpfulness, friendliness, and hospitality of the Turkish people.

Anyways, I made it to Taksim no worse for ware and, after gathering the other exchange students we made a loud multi-national parade to the restaurant where we were celebrating.
n one word, the restaurant could be described as "touristy".  The only Turkish people there were the entertainers and the few rotexes that had brought us.  The rest of the patrons were an eclectic mix representing Korea, Bahrain, Italy, and Singapore among others.

Our agenda that night included watching Turkish dancers, flame and sword throwers; and belly dancers with costumes taken straight from Hollywood.

At the end of the night, everyone was invited on stage for a few minutes of dancing. The South Americans proved that no one else can compete when it comes to having a good time, but the rest of us tried valiantly, and no one was ready to stop when it was time to go home.

Christmas day was, in comparison much less eventful for me, I spent the morning with the family who hosted me in Istanbul. They were kind enough to put me right on the bus to Edirne, so there are not interesting stories about how I got home.

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