No War on Christmas in Istanbul

 

I have no good theory to account for the very notable increase in the popularity of Christmas decorations in Istanbul. There have been more of them every year since I’ve been here, but I’m seeing a really notable increase over last year. Christmas trees, Santas, Rudolphs, garlands, Merry Christmas signs–all out in force, and beats me what to make of it. I’d tentatively say that Turks love anything bright and festive, and retailers figure this looks bright and festive.

Shopkeeper downstairs from me: daughter wearing a headscarf, very proud of his nicely-decorated new Christmas tree. Last night up by Taksim I saw a band doing rockabilly covers in Santa suits. Earlier today I saw a truck whiz by stacked high with freshly-chopped firs.

The driver was in a serious hurry. Obviously a lot of people were waiting impatiently for those trees.

  

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @rayconandlindacon

    It’s doubtful that they are trying to ingratiate themselves towards EU membership. Perhaps there is a reaction against the Islamist impulse driving a segment of the government in that direction. Rather than an embrace of Christian holiday spirit, perhaps it is a display of camaraderie between the moderate Muslim community towards their fellow “people of the Book”

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Contributor
    @Midge
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I have no good theory to account for the very notable increase in the popularity of Christmas decorations in Istanbul.

    Well, since we’re talking Turkey here, there must be a conspiracy behind it, no?

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire

    My gut says they think the decorations are pretty, shopkeepers like the idea of a holiday that involves buying gifts, and they’ve seen a lot of this on television and in the movies, so it’s an easy sell.

    It could also be that someone got an exclusive government tender to farm firs.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Member
    @BillWalsh

    What do your Turkish friends say?

    I’m guessing it’s the fun factor. Because it is fun.

    You should post some pictures. That’d be a surreal photo essay: “St. Nicholas comes home to Asia Minor.” * (Give it a couple hundred years and he’ll be Demreli İsant Veli as well…)

    Let me know if you see a crèche…

    *Because life is weirder than jokes: I’m pretty sure that Turkey petitioned Italy to return Nicholas’s remains so he could be re-buried in his tomb in Demre/Myra last year or so.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Inactive
    @flownover

    Claire

    Are there any performances of the Nutcracker or Christmas Carol being performed in town ?

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Contributor
    @Midge
    Bill Walsh: What do your Turkish friends say?

    I’m guessing it’s the fun factor. Because it is fun.

    You should post some pictures.

    What about Turkish Christmas music? If they’ve got that, too, I’d like to hear.

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Member
    @AaronMiller
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    What about Turkish Christmas music? If they’ve got that, too, I’d like to hear.

    Ditto!

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DeletedAccount

    Jesus is a very important figure in Islam. Here’s a link to the Wikipedia article on Jesus in Islam, which is worth reading as an intro to those unfamiliar, there are also tons of references around the web. So from that sense the celebration is understandable. And considering that Christians may have appropriated Christmas trees and even the date from pagans, those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ really can’t complain.

    Maybe some (unspiked) eggnog would go well…..

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Contributor
    @Midge
    HalifaxCB:

    Maybe some (unspiked) eggnog would go well….. · Dec 18 at 1:32pm

    Eh, Turks aren’t always quite so finicky about that whole alcohol thing, from what I understand. How else do you explain the raki (like ouzo)?

    Speaking of raki, how do you get the dot off the i when you type?

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DeletedAccount

    Mıdge – lıke thıs? İ thınk you’ll fınd the answer here. (use everything from the ampersand to the semicolon in place of “i” ).

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Contributor
    @Midge
    HalifaxCB: Mıdge – lıke thıs? İ thınk you’ll fınd the answer here. (use everything from the ampersand to the semicolon in place of “i” ). · Dec 18 at 3:14pm

    Thanks!

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Inactive
    @outstripp
    Francis Rushford: There is a certain joy/mercantile aspect to Christmas that one will seen in other parts of the world. Tokyo is very festive with Christmas Trees and Merry Christmas, even though it is not a holiday in Japan. …

    Amen brother. Xmas is a big holiday in Japan. Decorations on doctor’s offices, xmas music on the radio, xmas trees in public places (including public universities), displays in store windows, and huge irruminations in the streets. And what happens on Xmas day? Nothing. But what about Xmas Eebu (eve)? Of course, you eat chicken and a xmas cake, go to a dinner show, and sleep with your girlfriend in an expensive hotel. What could be more xmas-y than that? (Barely 1% of Japanese are Christian.)

    What do you want to eat at Christmas this year? (Sample size=500, multiple answer, top ten)
    Rank

    Food

    Percentage

    1

    Cake

    61.4%

    2

    Roast chicken

    53.2%

    3

    Fried chicken

    44.6%

    4

    Pizza

    39.0%

    5

    Salad

    35.2%

    6

    Roast beef

    31.8%

    7

    Ice cream

    27.2%

    8

    Sushi

    25.6%

    9

    Pasta

    20.4%

    10

    Chicken nuggets

    20.2%

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire

    I’ll see what I can do about the photos. I haven’t seen any ads for the Nutcracker, but Western ballet is comparatively unrepresented generally here. A Christmas Carol seems unlikely to me–too much to translate. I haven’t seen a crèche or anything else specifically involving Jesus or Mary, but I wouldn’t be that surprised. Eggnog wouldn’t surprise me at all and in fact seems inevitable–the grocer downstairs is doing a brisk line in imported panettone.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MichaelTee

    Hey Claire, read this, then get back to me.

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Coolidge
    @LimestoneCowboy

    HalifaxCB has it right.. Jesus and Mary are important figures in Islam.

    Some year’s ago while working in Qatar, I was quite touched to receive Christmas cards (with explicit Christian themes, no less) from Shiite colleagues. I also remember an office boy who made a special trip on Dec 25th to deliver a Christmas card from my mother.. he knew it would be important to me.

    And of course, the shopping areas of Doha were decorated, and (fake) trees, ornaments, and cards were all available.

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Editor
    @Claire
    Michael Tee: Hey Claire, read this, then get back to me. · Dec 18 at 7:48pm

    Edited on Dec 18 at 07:49 pm

    Is your idea here, Michael, that I’ve never before been exposed to the works and ideas of Bat Ye’or? Don’t worry, really I have been.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Inactive
    @FrancisRushford

    There is a certain joy/mercantile aspect to Christmas that one will seen in other parts of the world. Tokyo is very festive with Christmas Trees and Merry Christmas, even though it is not a holiday in Japan. You will even see Menorahs in Tokyo in December and Happy Chanukah signs. I never try to find the sinister when the simple will suffice. Christmas has become a huge holiday in Eastern Europe and there is much commerce and travel between these areas. Also, Jesus, Mary and Joseph are not antithetical figures to Isalm as they are to religions like Judaism, Hinduism, and Atheism.

    The final and most realistic reason is joy and fun. The Turks are not Arabs or Persians. They are not severe by nature and having fun is just fine. The largest spirits producer in Turkey just sold for $2.5 B – Mey Içki was purchased by Diageo. Someone is hoisting a few.

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Coolidge
    @Spin

    Maybe it’s the pessimist in me, and I know it’s chic to lament the ever increasing commercialization of Christmas. But maybe it’s turks wanting to be like Americans? Maybe that’s a little ego-centric or whatever. I dunno. I’m having trouble focusing because the man is installing my pool table!

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Inactive
    @KennedySmith

    Behold, the subtle workings of cultural imperialism. People say that like it’s a bad thing.

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Member
    @AaronMiller

    Who doesn’t read news like this and think “Ho! Ho! Ho!”? What else are they going to do?

    The Christmas spirit can be enjoyed by non-Christians. Every people can appreciate an annual celebration of beauty, kindness and familial joy.

    • #20

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