A season for giving: Hospitality, gifts and good causes

For many cultures, the end of the year and the start of a new one brings with it a time of contemplation of what and who is important in our lives. Whether this be through the tradition of gift giving to those we love or through giving our time and effort to help others, the new year is a time to show gratitude and generosity.

The following are a number of interesting and fun events that will be taking place in Istanbul to help guide you through this season of presents and being present:

Dec. 20 Expat Spotlight on 'Hospitality'"Expat Spotlight" is an innovative theme-based monthly talk series spearheaded by Yabangee, a website devoted to expat life and activities in Istanbul, which also organizes a number of titillating events themselves. Held every month at the creative co-working venue ATÖLYE in the impressive bomontiada multidisciplinary entertainment center, every month Expat Spotlight showcases a half-dozen or so expats share the contributions they have made in the city's cultural, sporting, humanitarian, and business spheres. This month the focus is on "Hospitality."

The eighth Expat Spotlight event is set for Wednesday, Dec. 20 and will be centered on the theme of "Hospitality." Among the speakers will be expats involved in the hotel industry in Istanbul and in Cappadocia, and travel writers, including one with their own guide books whom has also written for the Lonely Planet travel guide on Turkey. There will be Istanbul's leading Couchsurfing ambassador and an expat devoted to guiding in Istanbul's backstreets and on long distance hikes throughout Turkey. The master of ceremonies is also an expat English teacher and active contributor to Yabangee and Culinary Backstreets.

This is an excellent opportunity to meet, mingle and network with other expats while hearing others' moving stories and personal experiences in a resourceful dialogue that will take place in English. The event is free and begins at 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 7 p.m.

Dec. 20 Benefit Concert at Dorock XLOn Wednesday, Dec. 20 a number of Turkey's pop and vocal heavyweights, namely Zerrin Özer, Ali Güven and Şükriye Tutkun, will be taking the stage at Dorock XL in Kadıköy for a benefit performance to assist dog shelters entitled "Barınakları Müzikle Isıtalım!" (which translates to "Let us warm the shelters with music"). The event begins at 9 p.m. and tickets are TL 30 ($8) and available on Biletix.

Dec. 24 Welcome 2018 Happy Hour for Syrian Children

Tomorrow is Better is an organization started by Maisa Alhafez, a Syrian music teacher who has been residing in Istanbul where she also founded the Istanbul Mosaic Oriental Choir and shot the documentary "Battle for Syria." The "Tomorrow is Better" project began with Maisa playing music for Syrian children in the parks of Istanbul, after which she would gift them with boxes of clothes and toys she collected from her music students and friend. The organization has since grown exponentially with volunteers in the dozens and have even hosted a talent festival for Syrian children. The event on Sunday, Dec. 24 will be a day devoted to entertaining 60 Syrian children at the migration center in Istanbul Bilgi University with a magic show, games and gift bags for the kids. Volunteers and donations are welcome and would be a great way to help out those less fortunate this holiday season.

Dec. 20- The Christmas Jumper Pub Pub QuizOn Wednesday, Dec. 20 the theme will be Christmas at this special edition pub quiz night that will be held at the Irish Pub James Joyce located on Balo Sokak off of İstiklal Avenue. The event starts at 8 p.m with the first round of questions beginning at 8:30 p.m. The quiz takes place in English and will have a special Christmas theme to get you in the holiday spirit. Plus contenders wearing Christmas jumpers will be getting extra points.

Gift markets galore!

Dec. 22-24 Festive HamsterDubbed "The coolest consumer fair ever," Festive Hamster will be a three-day designer extravaganza held at Tomtom Kırmızı from Dec. 22 to 24 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. With over 30 brands, including sponsors such as Diesel, Adidas and Audi, there will also be 3D Print, flower arrangement and coffee workshops as well as events for kids.

Dec. 23-24 Pop-Up KadıköyThe third annual Pop-Up Kadıköy will be taking place on Dec. 23 and 24 from noon to 10 p.m. at Moda Kayıkhane. A wonderful opportunity to find innovative gifts while discovering local up-and- coming designers.

Dec. 24 Aspect Designers New Year BazaarMuhit in Kadıköy will be hosting an Aspect Designers New Year Bazaar, which will once again showcase local designers and unique gifts. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and at 4 p.m., there will be a felt angel-making workshop.

Dec. 22-30 New Year's Gift Fair at Lütfi Kırdar CenterFrom Dec. 22 to 30, the Istanbul Lütfi Kırdar Congress Center in Harbiye will be hosting a New Year's Gift Fair. Taking place from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. with free entrance, this fair will have every sort of gift imaginable including regional products and an tire section devoted to antiques and books.

Dec. 22-29 New Year's Gift Fair at KanyonThe sleek shopping center in Levent will be hosting a New Year's Gift Fair from Dec. 22 to 29, which will have a wide range of gift options and will be open from 1. p.m. to 8 p.m. daily.