This month, which closes out the year with Christmas and New Year's Eve, there are a plethora of activities for anyone seeking to give gifts and celebrate this merry season. Although Christmas is pretty much a regular day here, the Turks have adopted their own gift-exchange tradition for New Year's Eve, which they refer to as Noel and is also the source for the many beautiful decorations you may see around town. Therefore, it is easy to get in the spirit and certainly to get gift shopping in Turkey this month with a wide variety of holiday marts, gatherings and entertainment geared towards the expat away from home.
The following is a guide to expat-related events coming up in Istanbul this December:
IWI X-MAS themed Events
The International Women of Istanbul hosts a number of Christmas themed events for members starting with a Dec. 3 Christmas Cupcakes workshop in Tarabya. On Dec. 8, the IWI hosts an Asian side Christmas lunch at the classic Italian restaurant Il Padrino in Caddebostan and a European side lunch on Dec. 10 at the swanky Alancha in Beşiktaş.
International Istanbul Silent Cinema Days For a blast to the past, check out this historical cinematic showing of silent films accompanied by live music replicating how the films were originally shown at screenings held at the Istanbul Modern, French Cultural Institute and the Pera Museum from Dec. 3-6. Check out Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in action amongst the many films selected to represent this year's theme "Birth of the Modern Woman." In addition, there will be a long list of international speakers on the subject to check out www.sessizsinemagunleri.com for more info.
Holiday Craft Bazaar
Held from Friday, Dec. 4 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 pm and on Saturday and Sunday Dec. 5-6 from 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., this very unique holiday market will have arts and crafts by Istanbul-based artists, many of which are expats all under the theme of recycling and sustainability. Check out this special space in Çukurcuma, which also offers accommodation and has its very own "breathe" room.
Inter Nations Expat Event
The world's biggest expat networking organization, Inter Nations will be hosting their "Expat Only Event" for members on Dec. 8 from 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm at Long Bar Raffles Hotel at Zorlu Center.
New Year Shopping Days
Hundreds, make that thousands of interesting products and items will be up for sale at this two-day shopping extravaganza hosted by Uniq Istanbul and held at the Volkswagen Arena from Dec. 9-10 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
On Saturday Dec. 12, Keystone International School will be hosting a Christmas Market at their Çamlıca campus from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The classic Christmas play "The Nutcracker" will be performed onstage by the Modern Dance Troupe on Sunday Dec. 13 at 1:00 p.m. and on Dec. 16 and 23 at 8:00 pm. This is just one of the many performances lined up by this historical and impressive Opera House. A ballet version of Hamlet will also be hitting the stage on Dec. 17.
Speech Bubbles Pantomime
From Dec. 12-13, Speech Bubbles, the English-language performance school spearheaded by an expat but joined by all, performs their traditional family Christmas Pantomime at the Şişli Terakki School in Etiler on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. and on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
English Stand-up Comedy
On Dec. 14, Istanbul's up-and-coming English-speaking comedians take the stage at Arsen Lupen off İstiklal Avenue for a night of laughs starting at 8:00 pm.
On the eve of Christmas some of Turkey's most impressive and historical churches will be opening their doors to services and even midnight masses that are a wonderful way to embrace the holiday spirit. The most noteworthy church masses are held on the European side at the St. Antoine Cathedral, Santa Maria Draperis, Haghia Yorgi Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate Church, Sacre Coeur Syriac Catholic Church and Notre Dame d' Assumption in Kadıköy.
Welcome 2016 Festival
On Christmas weekend, the Istanbul Military Museum in Harbiye will be hosting a huge three-day shopping festival starting Friday to Sunday and organized by Garaj Organizasyonu and the Şişli Municipality to bring artisan crafts, good quality second hand vintage items and gifts sold by local charities all for a good cause and good shopping. Open from Friday Dec. 25 at 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Saturday Dec. 26 from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on Sunday Dec. 27 from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Pop-Up Restaurant Feast
Run by an expat and based in Cihangir, Pop-up Restaurant will be dishing up a very special Christmas Feast for expats in the know on Sat. Dec. 26. Space is limited for these high-in-demand dinners so sign up early on the Facebook page to secure a spot.
Get Outta Town
There are a number of expat organizations in other cities that get together for a wide variety of events during the holiday season. The International Women of Izmir (IWAI) will be holding a Christmas Bazaar on Dec. 4, a Christmas Ball on Dec. 13 and an IWAI Children's Christmas Party on Dec. 15 at Fame City. Bodrum goes full force for the Christmas season with a winter fair of handicrafts and homemade treats scheduled for Dec. 17 at Giggles in Yalıkavak. The next day on Dec. 18 will be a Carol Sing-a-long at Kıyı Restaurant in Bitez. On the day of there will be a Christmas lunch at Erenler Sofrası in Ortakent and on Dec. 26, the Bodrum municipality traditionally holds a holiday event for all foreigners residing in the area.