You might be surprised to find that there are a significant number of events held by expats and Turks throughout the city in preparation of Christmas and New Year's Eve in Istanbul. Although celebrating Christmas in Turkey, a country that is predominantly Muslim, may seem to be uneventful as daily life does continue as normal on the actual day, in Turkey, New Year's Eve has become a holiday similar to Christmas in the sense that they also decorate trees and distribute gifts. The city will soon be lit up with spectacular light decorations, "Noel" trees will be dressed and gifts will be bought for loved ones, yet all without the hefty commercialism that can dampen the seasonal spirit in the States. Furthermore, the little known fact that St. Nicholas (aka Santa Claus) was actually born in modern day Turkey, in what is now Demre, back in 270 A.D., makes Turkey a very special place indeed to celebrate the holidays.
In Istanbul, there a number of Christmas-related adventures you can embark on to get into the holiday spirit. A number of Christmas marts present the perfect opportunity to buy handmade gifts while fraternizing with fellow foreigners, while an upcoming dinner and play provide a fun way to usher in the holiday while giving charity to those less fortunate.
The following is your guide to all of the expat Christmas events in the city to make you feel more at home this holiday season:
German School Christmas Bazaar
Dec. 6, 2014
Visit one of Turkey's most prestigious schools, the German School, established in 1868, for their 52nd annual Christmas Bazaar on Saturday, Dec. 6, starting at 12:00 p.m. This annually packed event will have a wide variety of crafty items to purchase for Xmas from stalls set up in the historical location on Şahkulu Bostani Street in Beyoğlu.
Christmas Charity Festival
Dec. 7, 2014
Hosted by the International Women of Istanbul, one of Istanbul's oldest and largest expat women's organizations, the IWI Christmas Charity Festival is one of the biggest Christmas events in Istanbul that has been running for over 40 years. Held at the Istanbul Hilton Convention Center in Taksim on Sunday Dec. 7, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the IWI Christmas Festival, which is one of the IWI's two major fund-raising events, is an excellent opportunity to mingle with fellow expats, shop and taste international foods while perusing stalls selling gifts and delicacies for the holiday season. IWI charges a symbolic TL 10 for entry, which also serves as a lottery ticket for a raffle of high-end gifts, with all proceeds going to local charities.
Love is Giving Christmas Dinner
Dec. 7, 2014
Every Nation Church will be hosting an early Christmas Dinner on Sunday, Dec. 7 at Raffles Hotel in Zorlu Center. In addition to enjoying a luxury three-course sit-down dinner at this very fancy hotel restaurant, there wıll also be a raffle draw with special prizes and proceeds will go towards helping the needy in the city. There will also be a separate room devoted solely to children.
Büyük Kulüp Christmas Fair
Dec. 12, 2014
Büyük Kulüp (aka Cercle d'Orient) will be holding a Christmas Fair on Friday, Dec. 12. The event is free and open to all, so check out this prestigious club, which has a history spanning back to 1882 and is located in Çiftehavuzlar on the Asian side of the city.
Christmas Fair at Yaşam Church
Dec. 13, 2014
There will be a Christmas Fair held at Yaşam Church on Bağdat Caddesi on the Asian side of the city on Saturday, Dec. 13 from 1 p.m. to 5pm. There will be children's entertainment and stalls selling homemade goods.
The Bomonti Kermes is a charity event held by the Little Sisters of the Poor for their elderly home. Held at the Fransiz Fakirhanesi in Bomonti on Saturday, Dec. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., expect to find hand crafts, baked goods and treats from around the world.
'Jack and the Beanstalk'
The Speech Bubbles school of performing arts is a unique Istanbul-based drama group consisting of musicians, actors and performers of all varieties, ages and nationalities that perform all sorts of musical productions. Originally started over 20 years ago by English and Drama teachers for English language students, every year, Speech Bubbles performs a musical and donates the proceeds to charity, with this year's edition being a family Christmas pantomime of 'Jack and the Beanstalk' on Saturday, Dec. 13 at 4:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, Dec. 14 at 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. at the Şişli Terakki School in Etiler.
Handmade Istanbul Holiday Market
Dec. 14, 2014
Handmade Istanbul, an Istanbul-based Facebook group of artisans and craftmakers of handmade products that started up this year, is a mix of expats and Turks that love to create things by hand. On Sunday, Dec. 14, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the group will be holding a holiday market at St. Helena's Chapel, that will sell handmade crafts, hand knits, jewelry cakes, holiday cards, delicious edibles and Christmas decorations. The chapel is located next to the British Consulate in Tepebaşı and entrance to the event is free.