It’s two weeks before we all shoot off back to Blighty for Christmas. I’m supposed to be madly buying all the presents online so that I can avoid the horrors of Christmas shopping in town back home. It would help if people bothered to reply to e-mails and let me know what they want. In fairness Sister got back to me pretty quickly, but it was still pretty vague. Sister doesn’t really believe in requesting items for Christmas, and while I can see her point I’m not one for being given pointless crap which I am then expected to drag back here using up my luggage allowance when there is so much stuff that is either hard/impossible to find, or extortionately priced here.
While I’m really looking forward to going home, it’s dawning on me that I’ve been really lucky for the past two Christmases and this one is set to be a little less comfortable. For the last two years I was living in my own home in the UK, and it was so fabulous to have my son wake up on Christmas morning in our house. Last Christmas was slightly odd because Fatso had arrived, and things had to change at the last-minute because Great Aunt had fallen, so Mum had to race off to be with her. That wasn’t too bad because 2007 had been my first family Christmas in my own home and as such everyone came to me, and I cooked Christmas dinner for the first time in my life (with some help-Mum did the turkey at hers and brought it round). So after a bit of reorganisation the same happened in 2008. This year we’ll all be staying at Mum’s again. We’ve done it plenty of times before and it is nice for her to have the boys to wake her up in all their excitement. It’s not quite the same as being in your own home though.
So why not stay in Turkey? I could, and plenty of people do, it does get quite Christmassy here because the Turks have basically stolen the holiday and copy it in its entirity (without the religious element) and do all the stuff on New Year’s Day. Hence if you’re ever here in December for new year they all start saying ‘Happy Christmas’ to you on New Year’s day. That’s part of the reason I don’t like to stay here. I find it quite insulting, especially as I am a Christian myself. They have basically taken something because they see it as Western and all things Western must be good, particularly if Western also means American. As far as I am concerned they have their own religious traditions, culture, and holiday’s so why the need to pinch Christmas. Basically it’s commercialism. I had one friend who said he prefers Christmas here because it isn’t so commercialised as in the UK. I have to disagree, all the shops are starting to gear up for ‘New Year’ and the decorations are going up. Magazines have published their ‘New Year’ editions and they all contain gift ideas. Yes the Turks (well the ‘secular’-read Kemalist-Turks at least) give each other presents on new year’s day. The shops all start playing Christmas music, and while back home that might get me in the mood, here it just tends to get my back up. Half the time I just feel like shouting ‘Get your own bloody holiday’. I think it really begins to grate after Christmas, tradition in the UK at least dictates that decorations come down on 12th night and then the season is officially over. Here they can keep them up as long as February. Some people don’t even get what a Christmas decoration is, and so my neighbour in number eight has a Santa door decoration permanently fixed, I’m not the only English person I know who get’s irritated by that.
I think another reason I don’t like it, is that I do not celebrate New Year. For me the holiday and celebration is Christmas, and all about Christmas. I don’t go out or party on New Year’s Eve, so it means that I’m always available for baby sitting. It’s not because I’m a humbug, but to me New year is nothing special, just a turn of the clock. I don’t do new year’s resolutions because I’ve yet to meet someone who actually kept one beyond the first week of the new year.
I suppose that for those who are staying here for Christmas it is nice to be somewhere where there is a Christmassy feel developing (even if those creating it don’t really get it). The expat community does do some nice events and being in the capital these are often organised by various Embassies. There are carol concerts, and Christmas bazaars where people sell stuff that can be quite unusual so nice to take home to family as a gift. A few years ago a theatre group was set up and so now there is even an annual panto that has proven very popular. There are a number of churches in Ankara too so the religious celebration is there. So maybe staying wouldn’t be so bad. But for me Christmas is also about family. it just wouldn’t seem right not to be with them. I don’t have a big family and so perhaps that is why I always feel the need to get on a plane and be back home for Christmas. I have never spent a Christmas here, I have always arranged things so that I was able to jet off, even if only for a few days. Now that we have the kids it takes a bit more organisation and we all go.
So this is how it will go, we’re staying at Sister’s till Christmas Eve. That’ll be a first but great for the boys because they’ll have so much time to play with their cousins. Then we’ll be at Mum’s till it’s time to come back home. Husband is in charge of the Turkey, because he only eats Halal meat so he orders and collects from a Halal butcher across town. The shop owner finds it a bit odd that we want one for Christmas day but then we can’t be the only mixed family around surely. Husband says that he’s happy to go with the veggie option but secretly revels in an opportunity to eat meat as he has it so rarely. The panto tickets have been bought so Sister, 3 boys and I will be off to see Aladdin with Nigel Havers and hoping that it won’t be too noisy and lots of fun. Mum has been charged with taking them all to see Santa. I’ll be running around trying to find suitable stocking fillers and probably trawling the charity shops for any cheap last-minute extra pressies. Plus I’ll have to find time to visit old friends, arrange for Ifan to meet with his, wrap presents, prepare stockings and organise who will do and what we’ll make for the veggie option. Boxing day will be back to Sister’s where we’ll eat far too much again, and be thrown out of the house for a country walk, after which Sister will have prepared some games and we’ll all be cajoled into some enforced pleasure in which we’ll half-heartedly participate till she relents and lets us slob out. Husband will also be making mad dashes out of the door to try and meet up with his Turkish friends in the UK.
I think we’ll probably have to hire a car. Not sure if I’ll get a chance to squeeze in the much-needed driving lessons and test. I’m sure that Mum and Sister will soon get sick of us and will be waiting for us to return home. On the up side, even though we’ll all be cramped into one room at Mum’s, I know that the bed will be fine at least. That’s because it’s my bed, I left it at Mum’s after we shipped everything else that we hadn’t given away back here. There won’t be room to swing a cat and Mum will moan that she is having to move everything around to accomodate us, but then that’s just her fault for hoarding so much stuff and having too many clothes that overflow into the wardrobe in the spare room.
If I’ve made it all sound negative then that’s just me, obviously, because in reality I can’t wait. I’ll get really stressed out over all the packing, the flights, and airport pickups, but once I’m there I know I’ll have a great time, interspersed with a few stress fueled arguments. Mum won’t be able to cope with the chaos the kids create and desperately seek some sanctuary for her hermit-like tendencies (we’re actually very alike in that respect). It’ll all be made better by panto’s, Santa, carols by candle light, midnight mass, booze, over indulgence, chocolate, screaming/excited children who can’t wait to tear open their presents, crackers, rubbish jokes, and bad telly.