Sunday, December 12, 2010

I *Heart* Turkish Christmas

As a born-and-raised atheist, Christmas is always a tense time for me - I like many of the cultural and social elements of American Christmas, but I am always sensitive to the holiday's religious underpinnings, which I try to avoid.  I like the lights that go up everywhere, and I like the traditional foods and drinks of the season.  I like putting up a Christmas tree, and I love making my own decorations - usually with my own demented twist, like the gingerbread trailer parks I often make with my friends.  (This year: a gingerbread gecekondu!)  However, I don't like the increased pressure to go to church or to get together with family members who are a pain to deal with during the rest of the year, and I can't stand the incessant horror of Christmas music.  Usually I volunteer to work through the month of December so that my colleagues can go home to be with their family in the States, but I don't really want to spend such a holiday by myself in a place without any Christmas spirit.  *cough* like Riyadh! *cough*  So what's a misanthropic atheist to do every December?

Come to Turkey, evidently, where New Year's is celebrated in many the same ways we celebrate Christmas in the US.  People give gifts (albeit on the 31st), put up decorated trees and ornate light displays, and generally make merry with friends throughout the month.  But with no religious overtones to the celebration, I feel very comfortable - it's the perfect Christmas-ish for me!  More and more, I find it's the little things about Turkey that I love.  

Amusing note about New Year's celebrations here - evidently it's traditional to give red underwear to your female friends on New Year's Eve.  A friend told me that she ended up with 8 new pairs of unmentionables last year.  It's a wee bit different from eating black-eyed peas at New Year's, that's for sure...

13 comments:

  1. Those Turks got it right...

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  2. What's wrong with black-eyed peas AND red underwear?

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  3. Yeah, that's my idea of the holidays too. I do enjoy some of the cultural aspects of Christmas but can not stomach the real religious stuff. Nativity scenes and reenactments make me especially squirmy. But I don't terribly mind the Christmas music, as long as it's not of the too religious kind. It's probably because I grew up in Communist Bulgaria, where we were not supposed to be religious or celebrate Christmas. We still did in small ways but New Years was by far the larger holiday, kinda like in Turkey but for different reasons.

    Question about the red underwear gift thing. Is that what everyone gives to each other or is it reserved for intimate friends only?

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  4. I turned away from Christmas when I decided I wasn't Christian, but everyone celebrates, so I did too, then became pagan, so, technically, Yule is ours first, right? Except it's not exactly the same thing, and my kids like Santa and all that, and it's fun... and what the heck?!? You know my final answer? Christmas is MINE too, to do with as I please, because my parents and my culture gave it to me. So there. Merry Christmas!!! Enjoy the season :)

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  5. Hey, the reason for the season is whatever you find enjoyable about it! @Daniela... I think it's for people who are closer than coworkers but not necessarily only for very close friends. You're supposed to wear one pair at midnight on New Year's, so that's why you're given pairs the day before or a few hours before, so you have enough? I don't know, I don't quite get this tradition!

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  6. A girl after my own heart! I celebrate Christmas purely for the social/cultural aspects. And I know Riyadh was probably different, but Christmas in Jeddah is more prominent than I'd have thought. Our housing compound has vendors selling Christmas ornaments and decorations. And the mini-mart is constantly playing Christmas songs by the Chipmunks. Weird. But tangible.

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  7. I really want to see what the gingerbread trailer parks looked like. Were all of the gingerbread people sporting questionable facial hair and stained shirts sans sleeves?

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  8. It's Friday and that means the weekly Blog Round-Up is here, and you're on it:

    http://webtexans.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/many-joyous-celebrations/

    If you'd like me to remove the link, let me know.

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  9. OK, we ate turkish food like 4 times last week and I just had to let you know. What have I been doing not eating it for every meal?

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  10. @FSO Hopeful. So what's up with your family traditions? You mean you didn't make gingerbread trailer parks called "Whispering Pines" as a youth? hannah's best friend made beer cans out of TicTacs that were thrown about on the lot of the tire repair shop...colored silver with a Sharpie. hannah made a trailer with tires on roof and I made a barn with "See Rock City" on top. Demented...yes, fun to mock our AR roots, hell yes.

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  11. A few years ago our trailer park was called "Rolling Meadows." We even had the noxious green fake lake with a gazebo beside it!

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  12. One of my friends is married to an avowed atheist. They have two young children. My friend (a Puerto Rican) is christian. She really wanted to have a tree for her children. I explained to her husband that they could have a completely religious-free christmas. The religion does not have to accompany the holiday. I have stripped it out completely and celebrate the season as a consumers dream. I am trying to cut back on consumption so I have been getting worse at doing this, but I do believe that christmas can be celebrated without a single drop of religion (of any kind) intruding. Happy holidays!!

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  13. Gingerbread trailer parks...so awesome!

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