Frankly, I don’t miss the hype, the commercialization, the frantic shopping, and the obligatory over-spending. I do miss colorful and enchanting decorations, carols, cards from people I haven’t heard from in a while, Advent services and the notion that people are filled with a special "Christmas spirit," although I realize that the pressures and expectations of the season sometimes make people cross, irritable, and even depressed.
I teach English at a Turkish elementary school. I was flabbergasted when I asked my students, two days before Christmas, about Santa Claus. The blank and curious expressions on their faces revealed to me that they barely knew who he was. I hadn’t heard one Christmas carol or jingle this season – not even a Musak version – and though I’m not a good singer, in class I found myself bursting into song – “Jingle Bells”; “White Christmas”; “Deck the Halls”; and “Silent Night.” I also recited Christmas poetry, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “The Night Before Christmas.” Many of my students sat spellbound and applauded after each recitation.
One student asked why Christmas is so important to me. Almost instinctively, I replied, “because it is the birth day of Jesus.” Perhaps here in Muslim Turkey, I am reflecting more on the true meaning of Christmas than I would in the over-commercialized Christmas season of America.