Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | December 28, 2009

christmas in istanbul

turkey is a muslim country, but there are still christians here.  after all, it was once the byzantine empire.  there are only about 4000 greeks left in the country, but the patriarch is here, just across the golden horn.  the orthodox christmas is in january, but for those of us who celebrate christmas in december, there are a lot of reminders of this holiday.

thanks to marketing and commercialization, there are many decorations in stores reminiscent of our christmas in north america.  there are lights and decorated christmas trees in many stores and santa claus is all over the place.  in fact, st nicholas was from the southern part of what is now turkey.  st paul was from tarsus, which is now in turkey. for turks, baba noel comes on new year’s, which for most people is a family time.  baba noel looks a lot like santa clause and brings a bag of goodies.  other than that, there don’t seem to be a lot of traditions associated with this time.

i recently read an article that said that the turks in central asia invented the christmas tree.  a while back i read one saying that the hittites had a similar tradition of decorating a tree and laying offerings under it.  of course europeans say they invented it.  i don’t see why it had to be only one invention, as people who esteemed nature would of course revere trees and use them for the purpose of offerings.

my christmas tree is a live one.  i bought it for the cafe last year and it has survived falling or being knocked over several times and being repotted.  i am hoping it will survive being inside for a few weeks.  it is decorated with some decorations that i brought with me, along with some that friends and family have given me.  it looks very jolly in the cafe.  for home i bought i 3 lira ($2) plastic tree, draped with a little tinsel, as i figured oscar would destroy it.   surprisingly, aside from trying to chew on it when it was still in the bag, he has pretty much left it alone.  we set it up in the middle of my livingroom long enough to open our presents and then i set it aside. truthfully, by this time i am kind of tired of the one in the cafe and am looking forward to reclaiming the space.  that will happen on new year’s day.

i give a christmas dinner every year, so these years in the cafe it is nice to give a dinner that i get paid for!  this time there was no problem getting a turkey, though the two i got were smaller than i expected.  there weren’t many leftovers!  as usual, this christmas dinner was very international, with people from canada, the u.s., australia, austria, the u.k,  and turkey.  we all sat at one of two rows of tables and passed the dishes, family style.  people shared converstaion with their friends and new friends in a variety of languages.  in addition, we had a cellist to play for us. it was a very nice evening.

the absolutely best thing was that my dear daughter arrived on christmas day!  we had a few tense moments, as her plane was late leaving dallas, but in the end she arrived only a few hours late.  she didn’t have a chance to get jet lag that day, as she immediately pitched in to help out.

now i have endless turkey soup and turkey panninis for a while.  not all the pies were eaten, so i surprise some of the north american tourists that come in with the news that i have pumpkin pie available.

i wish that this kind of international christmas were more common, as i truly believe that it is one way of making peace in the world.  i wish you all a peaceful year in the new one on the way.

mother and daughter

mother and daughter

ready for dinner!

pass the potatoes please

i even got to sit down for a bit

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