At a Christmas market near you, in Turkey!

Staying in that foreign mission picture, so to speak, I am, of course, obliged not to give away the age of that person, as she is a young lady and that would be a diplomatic no-no. I will simply say that she is highly respected by we expats — including members of a fair number of consulates and embassies — who attend her cultural and culinary extravaganzas at the hotel where she manages a department. Neither will I tell our readers who had been invited to this charity function, as it is not the only such fun-filled activity offered to both locals and international residents. Instead, I may come back to this and other events in a separate article penned for our Ankara news section, so as to fairly and evenly pay my compliments to the various organizers, mostly non-governmental entities, including charities and entire high-schools.

But her comment inspired me to reflect on what makes Christmas so special and why even those of our dear readers who would not normally mark Dec. 24-26 red on their calendars may want to consider doing otherwise. Let me start by saying that last Sunday brought together not just the expected expat crowd eager to get into the festive mood while far away from their native lands, but a great many of our Turkish colleagues, friends and neighbors as well.

We all know that the period leading up to Dec. 25 (or Dec. 24 in some countries) can be a bit of a hassle. In order to celebrate Yuletide in a proper fashion, you need to buy a tree, you need to find decorative materials, you may want to prepare a special Christmas dinner at home and may be looking for ingredients and, above all else, you may miss the lights and shop window displays of all things Santa.

Hence, attending one or more Christmas fairs or markets where handicrafts are sold, traditional food and beverages are offered and the whole room or building is decked out in all festive grandeur can be a major affair.

The good news is that in Turkey locating all the things I mentioned in my paragraphs above is easy as our Turkish friends start to prepare for New Year’s Eve. And over time, what we consider the appropriate Christmas attire, if I may employ that terminology, has become standard fare too, at least in the capital, as the same symbols and the same decorations are used. A Christmas tree becomes New Year’s tree, Santa Claus doubles as “New Year’s” Claus and presents are nicely wrapped and exchanged on the 31st instead of the 24th or 25th. Everyone dons their Sunday best and so on and so forth. Most likely, there is going to be snow, too: a white Christmas and a white New Year’s Eve, all in one!

All this brings me to the actual point: while we start gearing up for Christmas, we should remember that our local neighbors might want to become part of it, perhaps similarly hoping we become part of their Dec. 31 celebrations. Why not hand over small gifts or homemade Christmas cookies or minced pies to those you live next door to or work with?

Some may think Christmas is only for those who believe in Santa Claus. Coming back to my first words in this column, you do not have to believe in Santa to pay him a visit. Christmas should be “open” to everyone — enjoy the festive season here in Turkey, ideally together with our friendly Turkish colleagues and neighbors wherever possible.