Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010 - No comments

O New Year's Tree, O New Year's Tree....

On Boxing Day (the day after Christmas, for all you Americans), after a delightful day of White Elephant gifts and Cranium and many, many cookies, we arrived home to a surprise on our doorstep: a six foot tall pine tree. No card, no note - just a tree. Rather puzzled (and intrigued), and so as not to offend the sender (who may well have been peering out from behind a nearby curtain) we brought it inside. And died laughing. We figured it may have been a gift from a thoughtful friend who knew that "westerners decorate trees" but didn't realize that Christmas was, in fact, already over. Just in case the giver were to pay a visit, we dutifully snagged some decorations from our "real" tree, spruced up the newcomer and gave it a prominent spot in our living room. A few days later, we came to learn that our chop-happy gardener (seriously, the man's idea of pruning is hacking all things green down to the size of a stick) had been cutting down some trees that week and, remembering that last year my roommate had asked him for "a few boughs of greenery to decorate the banister," he decided to go all out and give us what turned out to be an extremely long branch. He may not be the best horticulturist, but he has a heart of gold. :)

Apparently the custom of putting up "New Years trees" has really caught on in Turkey in the last few years. In fact, towards the end of December, you'll see shop windows and shopping malls decked to the hilt much as you would see at home. (See post below for more background.) I even saw on the news just after Christmas that the Department of Forestry was reporting a rise in people stealing trees from government land to take home and decorate. :) It seems that, through films mostly, much of the commercial Christmas hype has made its way into the nation with all the glitz and none of the meaning. (Hmm, however did that happen?) There's no such thing as Jesus' birthday here, so all the festivities centre around the start of the New Year. There is a good bit of confusion over why we foreigners celebrate New Years "a week early," so we are forever explaining that there are, in fact, two holidays that same week, and that the first and more important one is what all the fuss is about.

Sad as the lack of knowledge of "the true meaning of Christmas" is to me (both here and in my home country), I have to admit, it was rather comforting to walk down the street and see Santa hats on the mannequins and fake snow in the windows. :)