The new year is approaching fast. Will it mean much when the clock ticks away on Dec. 31 the last Monday of 2012 and welcomes on Jan. 1 the first Tuesday of 2013? Obviously nothing will change as not only the calendar we have been using, but all calendars are fictional creations of some brilliant brains to measure… To measure what? The distance between now and the past as well as the distance between today and the future…
BC, DC or whatever? Who can vouch in full heart the exact timing of the reported birth date of that soul holy for many? What was the relationship between pagan traditions, including their calendars and those officious servants who “conclaved” in Tarsus to produce the “real” holy book through shuffling sets of holy books? Still, belief is belief, has to be respected even by nonbelievers in this era of respect to rights and freedoms.
The oddest, of course, is the New Year’s Eve or the Christmas celebration in non-Christian lands where such traditions have neither cultural nor historical background. A communal illness of impersonation, as if they indeed belonged to that “other” culture? Some sort of inferiority complex or ill product of a defeatist psychology? Perhaps all, perhaps none.
Is it not strange that the first Christmas celebration was introduced to Turks by a Jewish-Turk hat merchant in the early 1960s in the famous “Pera” – today’s Beyoğlu district – of Istanbul? That Jewish-Turk, Vitaly Hakko, was the founder of today’s prestigious Vakko readymade garment and apparel chain. Hakko, in many interviews with the media explained in all detail what kind of a difficult job it was for a Jewish young man supporting a Christian tradition in a predominantly Muslim society because he believed such occasions were requirements of a “market economy.”
Hakko succeeded and in this predominantly Muslim society, despite all the anger of fundamentalists, the Christmas and New Year’s Eve period has become a time of shopping frenzy, a period of celebration, entertainment, a new beginning…
That was the catch phrase; a new beginning. Christian or not, this season offers everyone in this global village a possibility to make a fresh start… Or, at least the perception that a fresh start might be possible. Anyhow, in the social sciences perceptions are always more important than realities, are they not?
Nowadays, there are quite a few doomsday prophecies thanks to the belief that a 5,125-year cycle known as the Long Count in the Mayan calendar will supposedly come to an end on Dec. 21. The Maya didn’t say much about what would happen next, but into that void have rushed occult writers, bloggers and New Age visionaries foreseeing all manner of monumental change. Obviously Dec. 22 will be no different than Dec. 21 and all this frenzy is nonsense. In the meantime, the Şirince village in Turkey’s Aegean region and the Bugarach village in southern France are thought by some to be the only places on earth where it may be possible to survive the end of the world and are battling to accommodate hundreds of thousands of “doomsday tourists.”
Anyhow, in Şirince, Bugarach or wherever you are, warmest greetings and best wishes for the holidays.
(Yusuf Kanli is a columnist at the Hurriyet Daily News, where this article was published on Dec. 21, 2012.The writer can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org )