Snow in Istanbul

The snow started on Monday and they let the kids go early. Tuesday and Wednesday school was canceled. So I’ve now had three snow days in Istanbul. It’s the first time the city, surprisingly, wasn’t been absolutely crazy. There were less people out in the streets and those who were were acting like kids again–snowball fights, snowmen, sliding down hills. True, transportation was more annoying than usual; I was stuck on the European side with a friend of mine and didn’t actually make it back home to the Asian side until last night, only to get up this morning and drive all the way back to the European side. But that’s ok. It was worth it. It was a nice, relaxing start to the new year.

These are my friends socks drying on the heater. We don't have dryers, so in the cold weather, it can take a while for things to hang dry. This speeds up the process.

These are my friends socks drying on the heater. We don’t have dryers, so in the cold weather, it can take a while for things to hang dry. This speeds up the process.

This was the view from my friend's sixth floor apartment on the European side after the snow calmed down a bit.

This was the view from my friend’s sixth floor apartment on the European side after the snow calmed down a bit.

Christmas in Istanbul

Well I woke up today, which is good news. I can call my family back home and let them know that we’re seven hours ahead here and the world is still fine. So don’t worry–I will be able to celebrate my Christmas in Istanbul.

I have been told many many times that Turkey is a secular country and I’m starting to believe it. Because even though there are mosques abound and some women choose to cover their heads or wear a burka, I have been surprised by the amount of Christmas spirit I’ve experienced in Istanbul. Little Christmas trees and lights have popped up in stores and in homes all around the city. Even our school placed a large, beautiful tree in the entryway. We’re having a Christmas party at work, secret Santa and all. We even get Christmas Eve and Christmas off. The most interesting part to all of this, though, is that most of our children aren’t even Christian.

Let me back track a minute. Perhaps I should have prefaced this with the fact that I am not Christian either. I am Jewish and even celebrated Hanukkah this year with a borrowed menorah. But I still love and celebrate Christmas (just a more secular version). I love the trees, the lights, the songs, the food, the company, the spirit, the stories and yes, the presents. So maybe some of Turkey feels the same way I do.

And as if determined to prove my point, it snowed yesterday. All day yesterday. The school let us go early and canceled classes for today. ┬áThat means that I have a mini-Christmas break. So yes, I woke up today, despite the Mayans predictions and planets colliding or whatever. But what I want to stress is that I woke up to a snowy day in Istanbul on my first day of Christmas break. I think I’ll go out for some tea and do some Christmas shopping at the Grand Bazaar…just because I can.

Happy holidays.