by Katja Blöchlinger and Sebnem Eren
In the time before Christmas, something special happens around the world: it is the season for cooking and baking regional specialities reminding everyone that the holidays are just around the corner. In this blogpost, we try to shed light on some traditional Christmas traditions in Germany and other countries organizing team members of the Konstanz side come from. In the second part we present some pre-Christmas traditions of Turkey – and what is going on on New Year’s Eve.
Christmas food around the world
On Christmas markets in Germany you can try various delicious dishes from different parts of Europe, for example, Hungarian Kürtőskalács (in German: Baumstriezel) a spit cake whose form resembles a tree trunk, or Austrian Kaiserschmarrn with marmelade. Although many of these dishes have also become part of everyday life, in Germany as well as in Switzerland and Austria, advent season is the only season when in many homes the smell of homemade cookies in the oven fill the air. Many families bake together and usually produce more than one variety. Among the most favorites in Germany are the Zimtsternen (literal translation: cinnamon stars) and the Spitzbuben (literal translation: rascals, see picture). In the U.S. cookies, too, are a real Christmas tradition along with candies in all forms and shapes. Christstollen (English: stollen), a fruit bread of nuts, spices and dried or candied fruit, is a popular treat during the holiday season in Germany. In the UK something similar is known as Christmas cake as well. Additionally, the British enjoy their Christmas pudding for dessert on Christmas Eve. So too do Canadians, whose food traditions are heavily influenced by the English and French. The Québécois Bûche de Noël (Yule log), a sponge cake, is also eaten in other countries influenced by France, such as Belgium. In Norway, according to tradition a household should have seven types of cakes (or rather biscuits or cookies) for Christmas. No-one can actually agree as to what these seven types are though. Christian minorities in India traditionally eat Kheer, a rice pudding as a dessert after the Christmas dinner.
Lights and parties – festive traditions in Turkey
It is a time to be together with your friends or darling, and people may engage in a house party or street concert in Turkey. For instance, Nişantaşı, Beşiktaş, and Kadıköy can be popular places if you are in Istanbul. Except for Istanbul, people who want snow and wine holiday may prefer Kartalkaya or Uludağ. A couple of weeks before Christmas, these areas are decorated with lights and Christmas trees. Shopping malls are embellished with Christmas spirit as well. There are also discounts in the shops of all the famous brands. In primary schools, for instance, most of the students prepare Christmas raffle and decorations. Also, they write some wishes to each other and hang them a chosen visible place.
In contrast, many people do not want to celebrate Christmas, because they think that is a Christian ritual and some of them claim that Muslims should not celebrate it. It is a controversial topic actually.
However, people tend to celebrate the New Year. On New Year’s Eve. A lot of parties are going on that night. Another tradition is that women may wear red underwear, because it is a common belief that red clothes bring good luck auspiciousness.
All of the above may change in different houses even in the same country. The rituals described cannot be common for all houses, because rituals may vary according to the background of the families.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
In our point of view, if anybody has the new year spirit, it is not important whether you are Christian, Muslim or atheist, European or Asian… We wish everyone merry Christmas and a happy New Year where good wishes become real! If possible, take your loved ones with you and celebrate together. We are looking forward to see all of you in May!
The IstKon 2019 Team – a really multicultural experience!
The whole German IstKon 2019 organizing team consists of 36 people with roots in 7 different countries: Germany, Turkey, Norway, the UK, Canada, the U.S. and Switzerland.
The Turkish IstKon 2019 organizing team consists of 26 people with roots in 5 different countries: Turkey, Albania, Yemen, Georgia, and Cambodia.
IstKon is not only #buildingbridges among Germany and Turkey but has an indirect impact on the youth of over 10 different countries. Cheers to international friendships!