Celebrating a holiday in a different country can be an exciting experience, enabling you to become less culturally unaware of those in the world around you. New Year’s Eve in Turkey can help you appreciate different traditions, while giving you an opportunity to understand how others view Americans and our culture.
Yeni yilin kutlu olsun! Happy New Year! With no other winter celebrations like Thanksgiving or Christmas, the people of Turkey tend to blend all three holidays into their New Year festivities. Many individuals decorate a New Year’s tree, a fir tree with lights and ornaments like a Christmas tree, during the season. They typically enjoy a large turkey dinner with their extended family gathered together for the meal, similar to a Thanksgiving meal. Some families and businesses decorate with images of Noel Baba, “Santa Claus” in Turkish.
Prior to 1926, Turkey followed the Rumi calendar, a solar-based Ottoman calendar. In 1935, the parliament made Jan. 1 – New Year’s Day – an official holiday. Turkish people began borrowing Western traditions for the holiday.
After the family dinner, people may play games or watch television. Local establishments offer special entertainment for the occasion, although reservations are often booked way in advance of the holiday. The New Year’s national lottery is drawn just before midnight, offering the lucky winner a shot at a large amount of money and a great new year. The streets of the city centers become crowded and people count the seconds down, just like in Times Square in New York. Fireworks are set off at midnight, and people toast each other and exchange small gifts with their loved ones.
So why does Turkey combine the New Year’s festivities with those of Christmas and Thanksgiving? Many Turks do not realize that Christmas does not fall on December 31st. They watch seasonal movies and without specific knowledge of the Christian holiday, they merge the winter celebrations in Europe and the U.S. into their New Year’s festivities.
So if you find yourself in Turkey this New Year’s Eve, join the crowd, enjoy a delicious meal and count down to a new year. Nice yillara! (I wish you many more happy New Years!)