This is our first time in a country where neither Christmas nor New Year are celebrated and subsequently, there’s no fir-tree, Santa or tinsel in sight. There are no Christmas tunes playing on the radio, no crowds desperately looking for last-minute Christmas gifts. If we were in Russia, very restaurant, cafe, bar and club would be booked for corporate parties, and every supermarket would be full of people with champagne bottles clinking in their trolleys. And as much as one might despise the spirit of commercialism that permeates every public holiday and the blatant way giant corporations make boatloads of money during the holidays, one has to admit that the resulting holiday rush plays an important part in creating the holiday atmosphere.
This time last year we were walking through deserted streets of Wellington and flying to the South Island where we celebrated Christmas by eating pot noodles and playing Scramble at YMCA. Read about it here: thttps://mikeandyulia.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/south-island-trip-day-1-wellington-to-christchurch/
Presently, we are in Kayseri, where December 25 is just another day. Christmas is an adopted holiday for me after having lived in England, and Michael grew up celebrating Christmas. Their schedule was arranged in a way that allowed a day off on Christmas. At my university, the administration kindly offered to find substitutes for our classes if the foreign instructors wished to take the day off. They also put a Christmas tree in the teacher’s lounge and we had a little meeting where one of the assistant directors made a very nice speech and we had some Christmas-themed cookies.
I thought it was very kind of them not only to acknowledge the holiday, but also to give us an opportunity to celebrate.
And celebrate we did, for Michael’s boss opened his home to the staff of School of Foreign Languages.
With the help of his mom, who was visiting him from England, he has cooked a veritable feast, complete with a large turkey, veggies and roast potatoes and real Christmas pudding.
The dinner was indescribably delicious and very traditional. I was musing on how funny it is that we had the most traditional British Christmas in Kayseri, Turkey of all places! I also couldn’t help remarking that we were eating turkey in Turkey! How cool is that!
The Christmas pudding deserves a separate write-up. Traditional English pudding is cooked months ahead. Colin, Mike’s colleague, our friend and our local top chef, prepared his in November. The pudding has a lot of dried fruit, nutmeg, and once cooked (usually steamed) is fed with rum/brandy throughout maturing. It is served with cream and brandy sauce and it’s very rich and fragrant. My stomach was screaming for mercy but I couldn’t take my eyes off the pudding and I couldn’t resist having the second helping.
I’d probably be still sitting there eating pudding but Mike reminded me that we were going to and see the second installment of Hobbit. A cool thing in Turkey is that they show most of the movies in the original (English) language with Turkish subtitles with the exception of cartoons/children’s movies.
While I was writing this post I started thinking about past Christmases. A particularly good one we had in Russia was the year Mike and I got married. Mike’s brother Chris was visiting and his parents and sister were to join us a week later. Mike and Chris were dispatched to the market to buy some food for the Christmas party we were hosting. They came back with a nearly bold Christmas tree and a suspiciously heavy bag. They were supposed to buy a rabbit for a rabbit stew and a chicken to roast in place of turkey. They gave me two birds which they said were chickens but which looked suspiciously flattened, as if Mike and Chris had a bit to drink and both have repeatedly fallen on the poor birds. When I inquired about the price, I was further astonished to hear that they paid three times the normal price for chicken. On further inspection, it turned out they’d bought two ducks when they thought they’d just bought two fancy organic (and thus expensive) chickens. The ducks were roasted with oranges, the rabbit stewed with prunes and sour cream and we had a very merry Christmas!