On Sunday 25th December festivities will take place all over the world to celebrate Christmas. Families and friends will come together, gifts will be exchanged, mistletoe hung, carols sung and wonderful feasts of Turkey and trimmings prepared and enjoyed over the holiday period.

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But what about our Turkish friends and neighbours?

Turkey is a Moslem country and Turkish people do not celebrate Christmas as such, although the idea is not a throughly alien one. Santa Claus (Father Christmas) was born in Turkey and is called Noel Baba in Turkish. It has long been the tradition that Noel Baba would bring gifts to kids on New Year’s Eve.

Christmas Decorations

Many shops and garden centres stock Christmas trees and decorations

Turkish ladies browsing the Christmas decorations
Turkish ladies browsing the Christmas decorations

Every year there are more shops and restaurants festively decorated with Christmas trees and lights. You will even see signs saying ‘Merry Christmas’ in Turkish – ‘Mutlu Noeller’

Christmas tree in Erasta AVM - photo courtesy of Living the Turkish Dream
Christmas tree in Erasta AVM – photo courtesy of Living the Turkish Dream

You may even spot a Santa or two.

A band dressed in Saint-Nicholas' red suits and hats with their white beards is playing in the streets of the mall (Izmir, Forum in Bornova), accompanying a tall Santa Claus on stilts. Photograph by Etienne Calame
A band dressed in Saint-Nicholas’ red suits and hats with their white beards is playing in the streets of the mall (Izmir, Forum in Bornova), accompanying a tall Santa Claus on stilts. Photograph by Etienne Calame

Despite all that, however, December 24th and 25th are completely normal work days. No one celebrates or exchanges gifts.

Business as usual over the Christmas period
Business as usual over the Christmas period

But all that changes on 31st December…

New Year’s Eve in Turkey

New Year’s Eve (Yılbaşı gecesi) is one of the most popular holidays in Turkey. The New Year’s Eve traditions in this country include a family dinner, a national lottery drawing and a countdown to midnight. Houses are also decorated and it is not unusual to see Santa Claus with a Happy New Year (Mutlu Yıllar) sign.

What Do People Do?

Many people in Turkey start celebrating New Year’s Eve with a large family dinner. The main course is traditionally a roasted turkey. Variety shows on television begin in late afternoon and continue until early morning of the next day. Many people play games while waiting for the clock to strike midnight.

Older generations used to play bingo during New Year’s Eve gatherings, a tradition that partly continues today.

State TV channels announce the winning numbers of a New Year’s national lottery just before midnight.  Many people also congratulate each other, toast to a New Year and exchange small gifts at midnight between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

In large cities, people gather in the town squares where they dance and watch fireworks.

New Year's Eve celebrations in Turkey are festive and joyous.
New Year’s Eve celebrations in Turkey are festive and joyous.

Turkish Traditions

It should come as no surprise that the Turks have their own special traditions for the night, marking the start of the New Year.

Do not be offended if you happen to receive a pair of red panties as a gift. It is considered good luck to don a pair of red underwear at the stroke of midnight for a fruitful and promising new year.

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Another tradition involves smashing a pomegranate on your front door at the midnight mark. There is also the less messy option of sprinkling salt on your doorstep – all in an effort to usher in prosperity and good fortune for the year to follow.

Red juice pomegranate on dark background

Opening the tap at midnight and letting the water run is also believed to bring good abundance and good fortune.

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To bring more money into your life, you are supposed to unlock a padlock at the stroke of midnight.

567d182f52d3a863d878f5be5a03087b And if it is travel that you seek, take a short stroll at midnight, as it is believed this will bring journeys into your life.

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Whatever the traditions or superstitions, whether you celebrate Christmas or New Year, it is a time for family and friends to gather together and share each others dreams for the coming year…

 

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