Thursday, January 1, 2015

A very Beyoğlu 'Christmas'

Amid the now-annual calls from some outraged corners of Turkey's religious establishment and conservative press for Muslims not to celebrate New Year's -- a holiday that has taken on many of the outward trappings of Christmas -- the usual mashup of traditions continued to mark the occasion in Istanbul's Beyoğlu district, a historic hub for minorities and foreigners.

On shopping thoroughfare İstiklal Caddesi, jam-packed crowds had braved the frigid wind and sleety rain to snap up last-minute gifts, including the red underwear and other lingerie believed to bring good luck in the coming year if worn on New Year's Eve.

In the nearby backstreets, a lights-and-ornaments-bedecked tree made an incongruous sight on a drab, rubble-strewn corner.

And the scattered seeds of a smashed pomegranate recalled the area's once-thriving community of Greeks, among whom tossing and breaking the fruit* as the new year arrives is thought to herald abundance and good fortune.

Happy new year / Mutlu yıllar / Καλή χρονιά / Շնորհաւոր Նոր Տարի / Bonne année / Gutes neues Jahr !

* Apparently Turks and Armenians also share the same practice...