Turkey's Greek community marked Kalanda, a long-standing tradition, in Istanbul's fabled İstiklal Avenue on Tuesday. The event on Christmas Eve brought the season's spirit to the city where the Orthodox community is concentrated.
Students, their parents, teachers and alumni of Greek Zoğrafyon High School, which leads the traditional march, marched on the avenue with Christmas gifts. They delivered pastry and gifts to passersby by as they sang songs in Greek and Turkish in the company of an accordion player and multiple Santas. The parade ended at Meryem Ana Greek Orthodox Church.
Kalanda, which originally means the first day of the month, is an old Greek tradition where children go door-to-door singing Christmas carols. They are served snacks or other gifts by people in the houses they visit, a custom similar to Muslim festivals in Turkey where children go door-to-door to deliver Eid greetings, in exchange for candy.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, religious services are held in churches all across Turkey, from the St. Anthony of Padua Church, Istanbul's largest Roman Catholic Church, to Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in the city that serves as the leading authority of the majority of Orthodox churches in the world.