Celebrating the Holidays in Istanbul

This year’s holiday season was different for two reasons. The first being that Turkey does not share the same national holidays with the United States, such as Thanksgiving. The second reason involves religion. Since the majority of Turkish people are Muslims, they do not actively celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas. However, having friends from all over the world means we get to share our holiday traditions with each other!

Thanksgiving was the first of the big holidays I missed while abroad. My fellow Americans and I were definitely longing for some our favorite family dishes, so we decided to make our own Thanksgiving dinner with some of our new international friends. We talked about why Thanksgiving is an American holiday and even shared what we were all thankful for. I think I can say that my non-American friends thoroughly enjoyed the holiday; I know I did!

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Yes, we ate turkey in Turkey!

Since the big holidays celebrated in the US are not celebrated here, there is no reason for the university to have breaks. Therefor, when I should have been celebrating Christmas Eve, I was in the library studying for my first final, which was on Christmas day. Thankfully, this didn’t bother me all that much because it didn’t even feel like Christmas. Although we had studying to do, my friends and I still managed to go to a neighborhood near our university to have a nice dinner.

Christmas is definitely a well known holiday, being the subject in many famous movies and songs.  People from all different spectrums enjoy the idea of giving, so although people may not celebrate it for religious reasons, they enjoy the idea of it. This is why in certain neighborhoods in Istanbul the Christmas spirit was very much alive. Lights were strung through out the streets and Christmas trees were even put up in some places. Walking these streets after my final made me feel right at home.

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Who doesn’t like Christmas lights anyway?

The holidays are best spent with family. Obviously I missed my family in the States, but I had made a new family in Istanbul and I was so happy to celebrate the holidays with them. The best part of this year’s holiday was not the food or the finishing of classes, but learning about other people’s traditions and customs that accompany the holidays. Listening to all the different traditions really put a true meaning to the holidays. It doesn’t matter which holidays you celebrate, just as long as you are with the ones that mean the most to you.

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