Christmas in Turkey is impossible right? Most of my friends and family who have never visited Turkey say this. “After all, Turkey is a Muslim country”.
It might be a Muslim country but one thing the Turks have got down to a fine art, is that where there is money to be made, they will make it. Around 2004, Turkey started becoming popular among ex-pats, hence a new business opportunity for all those restaurants and bars.
It is possible to spend Christmas in Turkey, if you are prepared to move the goal posts a little on your definition of a true Christmas.
The Weather at Christmas
This can be hit and miss. I remember one Christmas day sitting in an outside bar with the sun blazing down on me. However another year, takes me back to memories of driving back from Antalya and it was snowing. It could be hot, or it could be cold but your chances of a white Christmas are very slim.
Shopping at Christmas Time
You are not going to find streets laden with Christmas lights and a 50 foot Christmas tree in the town square. Neither will you walk in a shop to find staff wishing you a happy Christmas through false smiles, while Jingle bells is playing in the background.
You might however stumble upon a place that is selling Christmas items. Just the other day, I stumbled across a shop (actually it was a bar) that was selling small Christmas trees for 150TL (approximately $80). Depends on how much you are willing to spend.
Now this is where the Turks will pull out all the stops for you. In areas where there are a lot of ex-pats, the restaurants will provide you with a full dinner and entertainment for the day. Average price is 20 to 50 dollars depending on what is included. If the restaurant has connections, they would have received boxes of Christmas crackers and Paxo stuffing, from ex-pats flying out especially for Christmas.
Depending on the area, pigs in blankets is not a problem either as pork is sold in a few places throughout Turkey. I suggest that before booking any Christmas dinner in a restaurant, that you ask them specifically what is included.
Entertainment will vary from a live band to the restaurant staff putting on their own little cabaret. Celebrations start roughly around 12 noon and they will go on till the last person leaves at night, or the next morning.. A lot of places will insist that you pre-book your dinner so if you are planning Christmas in Turkey, shop around, compare prices and then book your tickets.
Do It Yourself Christmas in Turkey
As prices are slowly starting to creep up in Turkey, a lot of ex-pats are staying in their Turkish homes and cooking dinner themselves. Once again friends and family would have bought out the essential decorations and food. A satellite television will provide the festive atmosphere by showing Christmas films and the queen’s speech. Alcohol would have been bought from the supermarket. The best part is you get to fall asleep on the settee half way through the afternoon.
New Year in Turkey
This is the best bit because the Turks celebrate every New Year like it is 1999. So if you can extend your holiday for 6 days after Christmas, then I guarantee that it will beat any Christmas dinner hands down.
Restaurants and bars will provide buffet dinners and entertainment will laid on. You might even be invited round to someone house, to spend the celebrations with their families. This time though, there is twice the amount of people enjoying the celebrations and it is a coming together of people from two totally different nationalities and religions.
Have you ever experienced a Turkish Christmas? If so, would you recommend it or tell people to stay at home? In what part of Turkey did you celebrate Christmas and was it any different to my experiences I have described above?
Did you know the origins of Santa Claus began in Turkey? Read more about Santa Claus
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