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Happy 2013

I don’t know how you celebrate New Years Eve in your country. Maybe it is nearly the same everywhere.

In Germany, some people party. A huge party will take place at the “Brandenburger Tor – Brandenburg Gate” in Berlin. They are expecting 1 Million people there tonight. I have to admit, that I like a proper New-Years-Eve-Party but that’s a bit too much for me.

So my son and myself will sit down in about 3 hours time, have a lovely raclette together, we are going to watch some movies – he got the last Harry Potter movie part 1 and 2 as a X-Mas Prezzie by his dad.

At midnight we will have a little glass of champagne.

People in Berlin will burn firework. People are allowed to burn firework on New Years Eve over here. I don’t fancy to burn it myself, I used to do it when my son was smaller. Last time I have burnt my thump heavily. So I will just watch it, love the colors in the dark sky.

new-years-eve

Happy 2013 to all of you.

New Years Resolution of this blog: posting more regularly!

How do you celebrate New Years Eve? What are your traditions? And do you have any resolutions? Leave us a comment.

Father Christmas (Noel Baba) Came From Turkey!

You all know Father Christmas (Noel Baba) who brings you gifts on Christmas Eve (or New years eve here in Turkey). But did you know that he lived in Turkey,not the North Pole?

Santa-In-Sleigh

Most children in the West are told that Santa Claus or old Saint Nick hails from the North Pole. That he lives there year round with his wife, his team of reindeer and lots of crafty elves who fashion gifts in time for Christmas. We adults know that given the choice, St. Nick would choose to dwell in a warm climate rather than the blustery northernmost point on earth. And, in fact, old Father Christmas did in exist as a historic personality living under the warm Lycian sun as Bishop of Myra. His church and ex-tomb still remain as places of pilgrimage in the Turkish town of Demre (known also as Kale, near Antalya).

Patara Turkey ruins columns


Yes that’s right! Father Christmas was born in Patara on the Mediterranean Coast 1700 years ago. He spent all his life in Myra/Demre near Patara.

Patara was a port town at that time. There was a wealthy family trading in wheat were living in this town. A boy was born to this family and he was called Nicholas, meaning “the victorious hero”. Nicholas spent a very happy childhood in this well-to-do environment. However, his parents died unexpectedly when he was quite young. He inherited the entire family fortune. After wondering for a while what to do with all this money he decided to help the poor people around him, but he wanted to do it in secret so he used to climb on the roofs of people’s houses and drop coins down the chimney. One day, a citizen caught him in the act and his good nature was revealed to the town. Sharing his wealth with the people who were in need not only made him content, but made all those people happy. He even sold his house and lived in a smaller one.

The people of Myra were so poor that parents were not even able to take care of their children. Children were left on their own in the streets. Adults who didn’t have a job were begging all day long for a piece of bread. The sick, old and lonely people were leading a desperate life in the streets. Nicholas, who was aware of all this misery, founded an orphanage for the children, a kitchen for the poor, a hospital for the sick and a nursing home for the old.

Upon his death, a memorial was erected in the town but it was many years later before he gained the holiest of titles of Saint Nicholas. He also became the patron saint of sailors but more specifically of children as he was remembered for giving them nuts, fruit and sweets for good behavior.

Saint-Nicholas

Over the years, the true story of Santa Claus has become hidden in the shadows, known only by those who decide to trace back the history of St Nicholas or Christmas day traditions, I had no idea until I came to live in Turkey.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit the church of St Nicholas ,where I got a wonderful insight into the humble beginnings of the man who would later be known as Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Noel Baba. Located in the town of Demre (far away from the North pole!), the church is open every day and on the 6th of December, special celebrations are held for the day dedicated to Saint Nicholas. It is also the church which holds his original sarcophagus although his bones were stolen in the 10thcentury by Italian sailors and they are now encrypted in a church on the south east coast of Italy.

st nicholas church

Over the centuries, the tomb of Saint Nicholas became a place of pilgrimage for Christians traveling from around the Mediterranean Sea. Then gradually, other European cultures adopted the popular saint, and added their own twists to his image. The Santa Claus we see today appears to have evolved out of a Scandinavian version of the saint, who was later popularized by 19th century American writers and U.S. companies like Coca Cola, which used Santa’s image to promote their products.

But now you know he didn’t have magic powers or flying reindeer, he was just a good man who gave gifts.

 

Santa-Claus

November 10, Ataturk Memorial Day

Turkey is commemorating Great Leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Founder of Republic of Turkey, who passed away 74 years ago. Today commemoration ceremonies are taking place throughout Turkey and in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

No one could possibly visit Turkey and not come across Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the hero of the Turkish War of Independence and the country’s first president. So important is Atatürk to the story of the Turkish Republic that he’s remembered wherever you turn: His picture gazes down on you from every office wall, his bust or statue adorns every public square. Continue reading

Lokma


When I first moved to Kuşadasi, I would often see people walking the streets with an open plastic container of what looked like doughnuts.
Then one day I went to see where they came from – a temporary stand that is set up randomly in the streets. People eagerly queued for quite some distance outside these stands. Continue reading

Kurban Bayram (The Festival of Sacrifice)

Kurban Bayram (The Festival of Sacrifice) also Called Eid el-Adha or Eid el-Kebir in Arabic, is the most important Muslim religious festival of the year and a four day holiday in Turkey which starts today.

This is a four-day festival when sacrificial sheep or other animals are slaughtered and the meat distributed to the poor, commemorating Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael to show his faithfulness to Allah, or the same story in the Old Testament where Abraham was willing to kill his son Isaac, until an angel stops him. According to Islamic rules, every Muslim who is wealthy enough must sacrifice a farm animal for God. Continue reading

Yes I will

These are the magic words, which make the bride and the groom becoming wife and husband.

Today our picture of a perfect wedding is influenced by so many Hollywood Weddings, either in movie or the pictures of all the celebrity weddings.

© JMG @pixelio.de

Traditional Weddings?

Do they still exist? I really don’t know.

Before a wedding should happen, an engagement is necessary. Continue reading

A Time To Celebrate!

This evening is the start of Ramazan Bayramı which is the three-day holiday that follows the end of the holy month of Ramazan. Called Eid es-Seghir in many other Muslim countries, Ramazan Bayramı, sometimes called Şeker Bayramı or ‘Sugar Festival’ or ‘Candy Holiday’ starts at sunset on the last day of Ramadam or Ramazan as its called here in Turkey and celebrates the completion of the holy month of fasting. Fasting in Ramadan teaches people to get ready for the bad days (like wars, food or water shortage etc.) and helps them understand how the poor people feel when they have hunger.

The holiday is a time for sending greeting cards to friends and loved ones, paying visits, giving gifts and enjoying a lot of sweets. Everyone enjoys drinking lots of Turkish tea and coffee in broad daylight after the 30 days of daylight fasting during Ramazan. I especialy love the tradition of children knocking on the door to Show off their new clothes in hope of being given sweets or a coin or two and wishing the people who answer the door ‘İyi Bayramlar’ also kissing your hand and then touching their foreheads with it which is a major gesture of respect.

It always amazes me that when being presented with a large dish of sweets the children are ever so polite and only take one and have to be encourage to take more. Thats not to say that they won’t knock on your door every day of the holiday though! And so, we’re sat at home now with a huge plate of sweets looking at us and trying to be strong willed and not eat them ourselves. Well just one won’t hurt …. will it?

 As I write, we can also hear the Ramazan Drummers, they’ve spent the last month walking the streets of Kuşadasi, banging their drums to wake the people up to eat before sunrise. Today, they’re walking the streets banging their drums loud and proud as they wish people İyi Bayramlar and hope for a few tips. It’s always nice to finally see the night time drummer in person.

Tomorrow I will spend the day visiting my husbands family some of who still are not used to having a foreigner in their home. They’ll ply me with çay (turkish tea) which is a black tea and is generally not drank in cups or mugs but in special glasses (there must be an art to drinking it without burning your fingers but i have yet to find it), and every sweet thing imaginable!

The children bring their friends to practise their english on me and i get a chance to try out my turkish, the neighbours come by to check out the yabancı (foreigner) and they all make me feel extremely welcome. It’s rather like our Christmas.

                                       İyi Bayramlar!

First Day at School

Today is a special day for many children in Berlin. It is their first day at school.

Going to school is mandatory in Germany, home schooling is forbidden. Each of the federal states in Germany has own laws about the age a child has to be enrolled to school. Usually it is around the 6th birthday.

Usually first day of school is not a normal school day, it is celebrated like a big party.
The local school has invited the whole family before the summer holidays given the very date and time of the event.
The soon-to-be-student is nervous, has special ideas about the big school cone he will get as present for the first day in school and also about his school bag. Continue reading

The ‘Evil Eye’ of Turkey

The Nazar Boncuğu charm (or Evil Eye Bead) is an “eye”, often set on a blue background. It stares back at the world to ward off the evil spirits and keep you safe from harm. It is one of the most common items of decoration in any Turkish home, in any car, or on any person. The story goes: There was once a village by the sea and one day found on its shores was a massive rock that no one could move or break apart. One of the villagers was known to have the ‘evil eye’ and when he came down to the sea and had a look at the rock, he commented with awe at its impossible size. As soon as he spoke, the giant rock split in two with a thundering crack. Now, when things go badly, when a prized possession disappears, when a newborn baby becomes sick, when someone dies unexpectedly, it is said that “nazar” has touched him or her. The Turkish word “nazar” comes from Arabic for “eye” or “look.” In fact, in Turkey most people fear it as an inadvertent ill-effect caused by envy and many believe the risk of the evil eye is most prevalent when things are going great. Too much good fortune? Something’s bound to go wrong. Call me paranoid and a pessimist, but I myself often get a little nervous when everything seems to be going my way. It may be construed as a twisted form of humility, but you don’t jinx good fortune by pointing it out. It’s a form of fighting fire with fire, an eye for an evil eye. Often wrongly translated to English as the evil eye itself, it is actually a “benevolent eye” fending off the evil one. Its purpose is to reflect the dark powers of an envious glance. The amulet is typically round and made of glass fashioned with blue and white concentric circles made to look like a wide open eye. Why the colour blue? Turkey is in a dry part of the world, where water is precious, with water things prosper and grow, and without it, things shrivel and die. The colour blue reminds people of fresh, cool water. And if a nazar boncuğu ever cracks or shatters, this means it has just absorbed a rather powerful bit of the evil eye and scared off an evil spirit. It should be replaced immediately!   Evil eye beads come in all shapes and sizes: pendants, earrings, key chains, wall hangings, pins, shot glasses, ash trays, I’ve seen them all. Bracelets often have a whole series of tiny glass evil eye beads worked into them. Sometimes the amulets are worked into the foundations of new buildings.  Most homes and shops have one displayed somewhere, when someone in Turkey moves in to a new apartment or house, it’s likely that one or more of their friends will give them an evil eye as a house warming present. And they’ll hang it next to the doorway of their house or even on a bedroom wall. And there it will stay. For years; for decades. Keeping away the bad things in life. Or so everyone hopes.

Though many Turks may shrug it off with a smile, there aren’t too many cribs of newborn babies that don’t have one of the protective blue eyes displayed. Mothers will attach a small bead on a safety pin to a child’s clothes or diaper. Why take any chances, right? Tourist shops carry them, streetside vendors may peddle them, and in the Grand Bazaar you can find whole shops dedicated to the nazar boncuğu. They make great gifts, if only for the story of them, and honestly, do you really want to risk falling victim to the evil eye?

To borrow a quote from  Michael Scott – ‘I’m not SUPERstitious, but I am a LITTLEstitious’

What about where you live do you have any special talisman?