Kirismas? Christmas? Happy 2014?
Are you surprised to see snow men, Santas and Christmas trees just about everywhere in Turkey these days? So was I, last year, since I was convinced there was no Christmas in Turkey which, as the name suggests, is a Christian holiday.
Oh how mistaken I was… There is kirismas in Turkey with all the symbolism we have in other parts of the world. It just has a different meaning. People here are not celebrating Jesus’ nor any other prophet’s birthday. They are celebrating the New Year which, as in most countries, starts on January 1st. So all those Santas and Christmas trees and glittery decorations actually symbolize the turn of the year. Families gather, have a nice meal together and exchange presents. Just as we would celebrate Christmas, except for there is no Christmas but the beginning of the new year. Confused yet?
I was absent from work for a week to celebrate Christmas with my family in Germany and upon my return today some people asked me why I didn’t stay there for Noel (Christmas) and I explained that it was last week. I got quite some confused looks. Most people were happy for me since I get to celebrate “Christmas” twice this year and one of my flat mates asked how it was possible for the year to start a week earlier in Germany…
Long story short, I have stopped calling Christmas Christmas in order to avoid confusion. I just call it “our Bayram” (our holiday) and try to compare it to the feast of sacrifice we had in October, even though its meaning is a different one. And then I explain we have the New Year’s celebration as well. Two different holidays within one week. And then people usually go aaaaa as in I seeeee.
I had an interesting conversation with a Turkish friend the other day as I pointed out how funny I found it to see Christmas trees and Santas all over the place and she found it quite normal since for her there was no doubt that they represented the New Year. We later looked into the matter and found out that the tree is actually a pagan symbol and that Santa originally came from Turkey… It’s funny how such symbols have come to play equally important roles in different societies and that they may at the same time stand for different things: kirismas and Christmas.
Still, I think that snow man up in the picture looks rather pathetic next to all those palm trees.
Happy 2014! Wherever in the world you may be…