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Deck the halls.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- When I arrived at the bookstore very early before the staff yesterday I decided to play Christmas music. Two of my favorite holidays, Christmas and New Year's Day, are around the corner.

If you are a newcomer to Turkey used to celebrating this season, you need to be aware that Christmas here will be very different from back home. In Muslim-majority countries like Turkey, Christmas is not an officially recognized holiday. No matter how hard one tries to make the holiday feel like back home, it probably will not! That does not mean it can't be good -- it will be what you make it!

One of the things I miss is watching Christmas programs on television. Of course the major English television channels -- the BBC and CNN -- will show a few programs, but I miss seeing some of the traditional ones, such as "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Does anyone remember watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas"? It was an instant success when it was first broadcast on Dec. 9, 1965. Nearly every year since, it has been viewed by millions.

If you have grown up in an area where people take pride in decorating their Christmas trees, you will find that it is not quite the same here. I have to admit that some of the trees I see decorated around town remind me of Charlie Brown's. He is one of my favorite cartoon characters. In this comedy show for children and families, Charlie Brown takes his job seriously, and he and Linus even set out to find a genuine Christmas tree to decorate the set of the school play instead of the usual aluminum job. But Charlie Brown's tree is a scrawny, pathetic thing, and all seems lost. That is, until the rest of the Peanuts gang decides to pitch in and decorate the woebegone tree. For me, the idea of pitching in is part of the Christmas season spirit -- peace and goodwill, helping others.

It is interesting how a number of Turks now enjoy listening to Christmas carols and going to Christmas bazrs held around town in December. In ystanbul, many purposely visit stores such as IKEA that feature Christmas decorations. Turkey, as a nation, has come a long way in being more open to new ideas. When I moved to Turkey just over three decades ago, it was rare to see any sign of Christmas or New Year's decorations and celebrations, except in ystanbul neighborhoods such as TeE-vikiye or Beyoy-lu. Of course, the trees were artificial.

There is a spiritual significance to Christmas, too -- the significant symbol is the manger scene. Most people you ask would describe the traditional manger scene as a kneeling Mary and Joseph, an infant in a tiny manger, a dark-skinned Magi with turbans and gold, camels laden with treasure, a donkey, shepherds and an angel.

Every year around Dec. 1, I unpack my manger scene and dust off the pieces, placing it in a prominent place where it can be seen. It is a beautiful porcelain ceramic set of figurines -- even though they have no facial features, the tender pose and caring, protective attitude of Joseph to Mary and the baby is heartwarming. These figurines depict the spiritual side of what some of us celebrate at this time of year, that is to say, unity and goodwill to all.

This brings me back to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" -- Charlie Brown's dilemma is a familiar one: humble beginnings, misfits, etc. Right in the middle, there is a soliloquy by Linus in which he basically quotes a big chunk of the Bible's Luke 2. The gang feels bad and transforms the tree into something beautiful after Linus reveals the true meaning of the holiday season.

Normally, as of Nov. 26, I start getting really into the season celebrations, but change is good. I am starting now. I enjoyed listening to those ever-favorite special songs of Christmastime: "Silent Night," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Joy to the World" and, of course, popular Christmas song such as "Sleigh Ride" and "White Christmas" with words of snow falling, sleigh rides and munching on gingerbread cookies.

Maybe it's a good idea to curl up on the couch and read "A Christmas Carol." Charles Dickens lived in the 1800s, when the winters were particularly cold and snowy, so it is not surprising that snow played an important role in Dickens' famous Christmas stories.

I wonder, will you have a real or artificial tree and will your holiday be sunny or snowy this year?

CHARLOTTE MCPHERSON (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Nov 9, 2013
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