Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Turkish New Year

Left: Father Christmas comes to Istanbul in time to be featured in a New Year's advertisement with one of his rather true-to-life looking reindeer. PHOTO by the lovely and talented Monica Marks. Right: New Year's trees adorn Istanbul streets. PHOTO by the equally lovely and talented Sarah Fischer.

Returning to Istanbul from Texas just before the Epiphany, I found plenty of Christmas lights and Santa Claus images to greet me -- and this well after most Americans have taken their trees down. Instead of putting up trees for Christmas, Turks have made many European/Western Christmas holiday traditions their own by incorporating them into New Year's celebrations. For further explanation of just how this happened, see this story from the Global Post's Nichole Sobecki.

In recent years, some Turks have even gone back to history to find Turkish connections to these "appropriated" Christmas traditions. Click here for one archaeologist's claims that the Christmas tree has its roots in pre-Islamic Turkish cultural traditions. Also possible to raise a bit of controversy are Culture Minister Ertegrul Gunay's plans to request that Italy repatriate the bones of St. Nicholas to Turkey. Of course, Nicholas died in fourth century Asia Minor (in the Greek colony of Myra in what was then Lycia), long before the Turks arrived in Anatolia. Nicholas' bones were removed in the eleventh century by Italian sailors preceding an invasion of Myra by Arab forces.

UPDATE I (1/12) -- Mustafa Akyol searches for more fun-filled Muslim traditions.

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