Celebrating New Year’s Day in Turkey

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- You may have noticed that shops throughout Turkey decorate their windows with pine trees, snow, red stockings and statues and pictures of St. Nicholas.

The Turks, most of whom are Muslims, may seem like they're observing Christmas like the Christians. They aren't celebrating Christmas, however. Rather, they're marking the new year.

Many parties are held on New Year's Eve. Night clubs, luxury hotels, restaurants have special programs and menus, and radio and television stations broadcast special programs which last until morning. Generally, television stations broadcast a program or film about St. Nicholas at the early hours of the evening on New Year's Eve for children. That is to make the children happy so that they go to bed early and parents can party all night long.

Although many programs and parties are offered by restaurants and night clubs, many families prefer having their own parties at home. Often, several families will get together to celebrate. The wives show off their cooking skills by preparing richly set tables, and everyone spends the evening eating, drinking, watching television, listening to music and dancing.

As a result of television, these parties are heavily influenced by the American Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, and turkey is becoming popular as the main dish. Some families, especially in big cities, have Christmas trees as well. Gifts are exchanged for New Year's, and greeting cards are sent to friends and relatives.

Another tradition for the new year is to buy a lottery ticket. Although the National Lottery Administration holds three drawings a month with reasonable prizes, the top prize for New Year's Day challenges everybody to get at least one ticket. Many people ask their friends in other cities to buy and send tickets to them. This year's top prize is 35 million TL. That is approximately $17 million, which is a big amount for a person in Turkey. In fact, it is a big amount for anybody in any country.

If you have questions on Turkish history or customs contact Mehmet Birbiri in the 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs office at DSN 676-6279.