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ALM Feature

A ritual of hope: Exploring Istanbul's 'First Day of the Month Church'

On the first day of 2024, hundreds from different faiths, including Muslims, flock to a famous Istanbul church, engaging in ancient rituals that transform New Year's aspirations into realities.

ISTANBUL — On the first day of 2024 and with the first light of the morning, hundreds of Istanbulites — some with sleepy eyes, other still hungover — form a long queue in a back street of Fatih neighborhood; what is the crowd waiting for?

Winding through the queue that starts at the entrance of the historic Greek Orthodox church known as the "First Day of the Month," one can seamlessly blend in to the diverse crowd. It may come as a surprise, but the majority of visitors are devoted to the Islamic tradition. 

That might sound contradictory to some, but to the visitors here, it's not. Amid the hushed anticipation, two women standing in the queue murmur, “Visiting a church is as sacred as visiting a mosque.” 

Merve, a faithful soul, declares, “I've been to Mecca for Hajj, and now I am here to make a wish. Some may judge me, but to me, both places are equal.”

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