Skip to main content

Turkey's religious conservatives bemoan 'dangers of Christmas'

Christmas and New Year's festivities have become an indication of hard-core religious conservatives’ fear of increasing secularization in Turkey.

As usual at this time of the year, the debate in Turkey on whether Muslims should celebrate the New Year erupts. Christmas and New Year's celebrations are not banned in Turkey, as is the case in Tajikistan, Somalia and Brunei. But the arguments used in those countries that such celebrations are "contrary to Islamic culture, which could damage the faith of the Muslim community" are not foreign to hard-core conservatives who oppose such festivities in Turkey.

While Christmas is not celebrated as a religious holiday in Turkey — where 99% of inhabitants are Muslims — Santa Claus, the Christmas tree and social gatherings have in time become integral elements of New Year’s Eve — a holiday widely celebrated by secular Turks. The dispute takes place each year between the proponents of the celebrations as harmless entertainment, and conservative Muslims who often wrongly confuse Christmas with New Year’s Eve but find both holidays “foreign” and unacceptable.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 for annual access.