Celebrate Christmas In Turkey 2024: How To Enjoy A Turkish Christmas

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Post author Enes

Written by our local expert Enes

Originally from North Macedonia, Enes is a well-traveled enthusiast residing in Türkiye. He combines his extensive knowledge and avid wanderlust to bring you insightful narratives of his Turkish adventures.

Are you planning on going to visit Turkey during Christmas? I live in Türkiye, and even though my home is a Muslim country, did you know that it is the birthplace of Santa Claus? It is true, but we do not celebrate Christmas as Western cultures do.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any fun visiting Türkiye during this magical time; it is a popular destination at this great time of year.

Let me show you precisely what you can expect, such as the celebrations and traditions regarding the New Year we look forward to in Turkey. Which, in some ways, resemble traditional Christmas celebrations you might be used to.

Turkey Travel Blog_How To Enjoy A Turkish Christmas

What To Expect During Christmas In Turkey

When visiting Turkey during the Christmas season, you should know that celebrations will be limited compared to most Western countries.

And since there isn’t a Christmas culture in Türkiye, there won’t be much enthusiasm or public interest. It’s also worth noting that gift-giving isn’t very common, although some families might exchange gifts on New Year’s Eve.

On New Year’s Eve, some restaurants, hotels, meyhanes, and bars host special events, providing an excellent opportunity for those seeking a fun time.

Turkish Christmas Weather

In most big cities, you can experience Christmas markets, where festive season dishes, Christmas-themed souvenirs, and local products are sold. If you plan to visit these markets, we recommend you wear thick clothes as the weather in Türkiye on Christmas day will be cold.

Do Turks Celebrate Christmas

Christmas In Turkey - istanbul, Turkey - December 2018: New year decoration with a huge christmas tree in Vadistanbul shopping mall, istanbul, Turkey
Vadistanbul Shopping Mall, Istanbul

Planning to visit Turkey at Christmas? You might ask: “Do they celebrate the Christmas holidays in Turkey?” Christmas in Türkiye is nothing like in Western countries due to the country’s demographics.

Since the country has a Muslim majority, Christmas traditions in Turkey are about celebrating the beginning of a new calendar year rather than commemorating the birth of Christ.

However, you should still expect some New Year festivals and events, similar to Christmas celebrations, during your stay. Most restaurants, stores, and malls have exceptional sales, and Christmas-themed ornaments are usually everywhere. Plus, some malls and organizations might even hold Christmas markets where locals sell an abundance of local products and souvenirs.

On the other hand, while such celebrations in Turkey are mostly related to the New Year, the Western Christmas culture has dramatically influenced customs and traditions in modern-day Turkey.

So, you can watch Christmas entertainment programs on Turkish TV, eat a plate of delicious Turkey (minus the cranberry sauce) at your Turkish friend’s place, and see a Christmas tree or two dotted around the streets of Turkey.

Santa Claus-themed statues, figurines, ornaments, and wares can be found all over the country.

History Of Christmas In Türkiye

Christmas In Turkey -


While Christmas isn’t widely celebrated in Turkey, most of its figures, even Santa Claus himself, come from Turkey. To understand the connection between Turkey and Christmas, we must travel back in time to the 4th century CE.

The modern-day depiction of Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, is based on a historical figure, Saint Nicholas. He was an early Christian bishop of Myra – a city in Antalya, Türkiye, where he was both born and was his place of death.

Although we have little information about his life, religious texts, and traditions introduce him as a generous gift-giver. One of the most famous legends about him tells us how Saint Nicholas rescued three girls from prostitution.

According to the story, the saint secretly dropped a sack full of gold coins for three nights so the father could pay their dowries. There are also other stories of him saving innocent people from execution, calming a storm, or chopping down a tree possessed by a demon.

While Saint Nicholas was venerated as a saint and associated with Christmas by the majority of the Christian world, he isn’t quite a popular figure in his birthplace, Türkiye. Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t see him during your stay in Turkey at Christmas.

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Do Turkish People Believe In Santa Claus

Turkey at Christmastime - One of Turkey's most famous street Istiklal Street
Istiklal Street, Istanbul

Another common question asked besides “Does Turkey celebrate Christmas?” is whether Turkish people believe in Santa Claus.

While the original Santa Claus was born within the borders of Turkey, it’s true that he doesn’t have a place in the country’s culture. Muslim Turks have inhabited Turkey, who don’t revere Santa Claus for nearly a millennium.

However, you can still see the influence of Santa in Turkish New Year customs. Instead of the Christmas decorations you’d usually expect, most shops and stores in Turkey start selling New Year-related ornaments and décor, which often depict Santa Claus.

It isn’t uncommon for the Muslim population, malls, and shops to erect statues and place figurines of Santa Claus around.

Also, some municipalities might organize New Year events where people dress up as Santa.

So, while Turks don’t believe in him, Santa Claus still has a prominent role in New Year celebrations.

How To Say Merry Christmas In Turkish

Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul. Locals walking on a rainy night in January
The Istiklal Caddesi (Independence Avenue) 

There are several ways to wish someone a happy Christmas time. The most common are:

  • Mutlu Noeller! The direct translation of Merry Christmas Turkish people use is “Mutlu Noeller!” The expression literally means “Have a happy Christmas” and is mainly used in films or literary works. Nevertheless, Christian Turks also use the expression to wish each other a happy Christmas
  • Yeni yılınız kutlu olsun! This is a more secular and popular way of saying “Merry Christmas” in Turkish. The expression, which means “Happy New Year,” is often used on New Year’s Eve to wish neighbors and relatives good luck
  • Mutlu yıllar! This expression has two different meanings: “Happy New Year” and “Happy birthday.” While it’s not as popular as the previous phrase, most people will say “Mutlu yıllar!” in their text messages to emphasize their good wishes. You can even use both expressions together, like “Yeni yılınız kutlu olsun, mutlu yıllar!”

Christmas Traditions In Turkey

Since Christmas is neither a national nor a traditional holiday in Turkey, it’s hard to talk about genuine Christmas traditions. Nevertheless, there are various New Year-related customs, some of which resemble Western Christmas traditions.

Here are some of them:

  • Homes and stores usually decorate their windows with Christmas ornaments
  • Most people eat roast turkey on New Year’s Eve
  • Neighbors and relatives often visit each other. It’s customary to serve your visitors baklava, Turkish delight, and chocolate
  • Wearing red underwear is said to bring good luck in the coming year
  • Local products and souvenirs are found at Christmas markets in Türkiye, usually in malls or public squares. These markets are generally called “Noel Pazarı” or “Yılbaşı Pazarı”
  • When ten seconds are left to the new year, people start counting down out loud

Where To Find Christian Church Services In Turkey?

Christmas In Turkey - nterior of Nave of the Saint Anthony of Padua (St. Antoine Church) , the largest Roman catholic cathedral in Istanbul. Beyoglu district
Saint Anthony of Padua – St. Antoine Church

Most churches in Türkiye offer Christmas masses. Some of the churches you can visit in Istanbul for a Christmas service are:

  1. Church Of St. Anthony Of Padua – Catholic (They provide services in English)
  2. Crimean Church – The Church of England (They offer services in English)
  3. British Consulate Chapel of Saint Helena – The Church of England (They provide services in English)
  4. Venerable Patriarchal Church of Saint George – Orthodox
  5. German Protestant Church – German Lutheran
  6. Protestant Church of Beşiktaş – Protestant

Where To Spend Christmas Season In Turkey

Christmas in Istanbul - Virgin Mother and Child mosaic
Theotokos (Virgin Mother and Child) on mosaic in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.

If you’re going on a Christmas vacation in Turkey, you should know where to spend this joyful time of the year. If you are in Turkey during the Christmas period, I recommend one of these as the best Turkish cities:

Christmas In Istanbul

Winter in Istanbul - Hagia Sophia in winter morning

Shopping & Malls

  • Vadistanbul Shopping Mall
  • Centro Comercial Cevahir
  • Akasya Mall
  • Kanyon Shopping Mall
  • Grand Bazaar


  • Nicole
  • Panoramic Restaurant
  • Hamdi Restaurant – Pera
  • Shangri La
  • Swissotel The Bosphorus
  • Hilton Istanbul Bomonti Hotel & Conference Center


  • Pierre Loti Café
  • Gülhane Parkı
  • Galata
  • Balat Parkı

Christmas In Izmir

Where to stay in Izmir - Izmir clock tower.

Shopping Malls

  • MaviBahçe AVM
  • Hilltown AVM
  • Forum Bornova
  • İstinyePark İzmir


  • Deniz Restaurant
  • La Cigale Alsancak
  • Buga Mavişehir
  • Lidaki Balık Restaurant
  • Şirince Artemis Restaurant


  • Alsancak
  • Şirince
  • Efes
  • Bostanlı

Christmas In Antalya

The Land of Legends Theme Park

Must Visit

  • St Nicholas Church & Museum

Shopping Malls

  • Land of Legends
  • TerraCity Mall


  • Taşkapı Konyaaltı Meyhanesi
  • Susesi Luxury Resort
  • Asteria Kremlin Palace
  • Selectum Luxury Resort
  • Food In Box Antalya


  • Demre
  • Patara
  • Kekova
  • Aspendos

Celebrate Christmas In Turkey FAQs


Does Turkey celebrate Christmas?

Turkey does not officially celebrate Christmas since the majority of the population is Muslim. However, there are still Christmas events and festivities taking place in Istanbul, mainly for the benefit of tourists.

Are there any Christmas decorations in Turkey?

Although Christmas is not celebrated nationwide, you can still find Christmas decorations in places like Istanbul, particularly along Istiklal Street and in shopping malls. These decorations are put up to cater to the large number of tourists visiting Turkey, especially from countries where Christianity is the dominant religion.

Are there any Christmas markets in Turkey?

While Christmas is not a widely celebrated event, there is a Christmas Market held outside the Four Seasons Hotel in Istanbul. This market, happening from the 8th to 25th of December, offers various stalls, live music, fairground rides, and even an ice rink for visitors to enjoy.

What can I expect on Christmas Day in Turkey?

On Christmas Day, Turkey operates normally as it does on any other day. While you may see some decorations, there are no major parades or festivities happening nationwide. However, you may find ceremonies and events at the Christian churches, particularly in Istanbul.

Where is the best place to celebrate Christmas in Turkey?

Istanbul is the best place to experience the holiday spirit in Turkey. The city has a significant Christian presence and offers the most festive atmosphere during the Christmas season. You can explore the Istanbul Christmas Market held at the Four Seasons Hotel, stroll through decorated stalls, enjoy warm beverages, skate on the ice rink, and even ride the ferris wheel with a view of the Bosphorus. Alternatively, if you prefer a serene Christmas experience, Cappadocia is an excellent destination known for its unique landscape and the possibility of snow during winter.

Is New Year’s Eve celebrated in Turkey?

Yes, New Year’s Eve is widely celebrated in Turkey. It is a big day for locals and tourists alike, with fireworks, parties, and family gatherings. It marks the beginning of the new year, and people come together to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the fresh start with enthusiasm and joy.

Is Turkey a good destination to visit during the Christmas season?

Absolutely! Although Christmas itself is not a major celebration in Turkey, the country still offers a magical destination with its rich cultural heritage and enchanting destinations waiting to be explored. Istanbul, in particular, provides a festive atmosphere, and even without extensive Christmas celebrations, Turkey has much to offer visitors during the holiday season.

So, leave behind your usual Christmas hype and traditional Christmas dinner, and instead swap it for the views of the Bosphorus strait, the ancient city of Ephesus, or even some strange stacked rock formations and enjoy the new year holidays in my country – Türkiye!

Comments (2)

  1. I found Christmas in Istanbul last year enchanting. The city’s unique blend of Eastern and Western cultures created a festive atmosphere filled with lights, music, and an air of joy – but gosh it was so packed.

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