Turkey is blessed with a vast and interesting history, and for a country that doesn’t really celebrate Christmas, it boasts far more connections with this well-loved holiday than you may think. Here’s a little info for you about Christmas and Turkey.
SANTA CAME FROM TURKEY, NOT THE NORTH POLE.
Yes, Santa Claus came from Turkey. Most assume this jolly-old-man is fictional, that he came from the North Pole or was a marketing ploy dreamt up by a drink company. In reality, the wonderful Christmas tale started with an orphaned boy called Nicholas from Patara, 40 minutes from Fethiye.
Nicholas lived in the late 3rd and 4th centuries and lost his father at a young age. His dad was a successful wheat trader, so Nicholas was left a large estate. Wanting to honour his devout Christian upbringing, he set about giving his fortune to those in need. He did this in secret.
Many amazing stories surround Nicholas’ generous actions. He left money to the father’s of local girls to pay for their dowries, put gold in shoes outside doors to help pay for food, and climbed on rooftops to throw coins down chimneys to help families in need. His secret deeds continued until a local man caught him and spread the news of his actions, from then he was seen as a local hero.
The church became aware of Nicholas and made him bishop of Myra, a town we now call Demre. Here he continued his good work and was a fierce defender of the church. During the Great Persecution when priests had to renounce Christianity or face execution, Nicholas is thought to have lived on St. Nicholas Island, close to Oludeniz.
Nicholas died on December 6th 343 A.D. by which time stories of his gift-giving actions had spread throughout Europe. The Dutch called him Sinter Klaas, and many continue to celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas each 6th December. Years later a bishop declared December 25th as Jesus’s birthday, and the dates became connected over time. It is the story of St. Nicholas that sparked the modern Christmas tale. The magical flying reindeer, elves and red suit are all extensions of the account added since the story reached America in the 1700s.
TURKEYS DON’T COME FROM TURKEY.
Think of Christmas dinner and a big fat turkey, roast spuds and all the trimmings spring to mind. People often assume this popular bird comes from Turkey, but they would be wrong. Turkeys originated in North America.
Turkeys are not native to Turkey. In fact, they are called hindi here probably because Turks thought they came from India, known as Hindistan. It’s believed the name came about as Turkish traders used to sell African guinea fowl, a bird that closely resembles the turkey, to locals in the US. The Americans referred to this bird as a turkey simply because the sellers were Turkish, and the name stuck.
TURKISH DELIGHT, A WISE GIFT FROM THE EAST.
All manner of sweets and sugary goods creep into the shops at Christmas, and boxes of Turkish Delight often make their way into shopping baskets. Some say this is a reference back to the three wise men carrying gifts from the East. Be that the case or not, the Turkish Delight or lokum from Turkey is very different to the mass-manufactured varieties available elsewhere. The best Turkish Delight comes from Turkey and is available in specialist shops where you can pick your own from a wide variety of flavours. Rose, lemon and mint are perhaps the most common, but the pistachio or walnut filled ones dredged in sugar, also taste superb.
THE CHRISTMAS POINSETTIA IS ALSO THE ATATURK FLOWER.
You can tell Christmas is coming when shop and florist window displays tempt you inside with their beautiful poinsettia’s. These attractive red and green plants are decidedly festive and brighten up many a Chrismas home. But what’s interesting is that in Turkey they are also known as Atatürk çiçeği or the Atatürk flower.
The Christmas origins of the plant stem back to Central America where they are called Flores de Noche Buena, referring to the night Jesus was born. Atatürk is said to have loved poinsettia and spent time promoting them as a decorative plant in Turkey, so they also ended up referred to as his flower.
CHRISTMAS TREES ARE DECORATED FOR NEW YEAR IN TURKEY
Come December in Turkey and you would think the locals celebrate Christmas. Take a walk around the larger supermarkets to find Christmas trees and ornaments for sale, plus turkeys in the freezers ready for a home-cooked feast. You would be forgiven for thinking this is all for Christmas, but in Turkey, it’s for New Year.
The vast majority of Turks are Muslim, so don’t celebrate Christmas or the birth of Jesus. Turks do however love a celebration, and they go all-out for New Year. Father Christmas, known locally as Noel Baba, makes his annual appearance and brings toys and presents for the kids. Trees are decorated in tinsel, draped in fairy lights and adorned with glittery baubles, and a big roast dinner is usually prepared. Large parties and celebrations are held in town squares and homes around Turkey, and families and friends gather to wish each other well for the coming year.
SEASON’S GREETINGS FROM ANGEL HOMES
2020 has been a challenging year for us all. Due to the pandemic, the holiday celebrations this year are likely to be very different. Whatever you are planning to do this Christmas and New Year, Angel Homes would like to wish you well. From all at Angels Homes and Rentals, we thank you for your continued support and wish you a very merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous new year.