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A Christmas in Istanbul

The view from my living room window (Photo by AM)
The view from my living room window (Photo by AM)

My most memorable Christmas was the first one I celebrated overseas and without family. It was 2011 and I was living in Istanbul. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a lonely time, but it was also very special for that same reason.

A friend gifted me a small, Charlie Brown-style Christmas tree, reminding me that I should celebrate, and, oh, that jolly old St. Nick was originally from Turkey, after all. How appropriate. The tree was meek yet entirely appropriate. We got a little toy train that did small laps around said small tree, and at night we would sit quietly and watch the lights dance around the tree while the train chugged along. The loneliness I experienced that winter inspired me to be more festive than I ever had before — I insisted on making a popcorn garland for our little tree (a first for me!) and even decorated our street facing window with paper snowflakes.

It snowed that Christmas morning, which was magical for a number of reasons — coming from Central California, I had never lived in a city where it snowed, and the normally bustling street I lived on was finally quiet, beautifully covered in a thin blanket of white. 

That was my only Christmas in Istanbul, but since then I’ve decided to continue with the same traditions I created then — I recently purchased a small tree for my apartment and plan to make that popcorn garland this week. Now that I’m living in San Francisco again, the only thing missing this year will be the thin blanket of snow covering the bustling street I now live on.