A Guide to Xmas in Turkey 2024

As the holiday season approaches, you might be wondering; does Turkey celebrate Christmas?

Officially, Christmas is not celebrated in Turkey as most Turkish people identify as Muslim, however there are still Christmas events and festivities happening in Istanbul for the benefit of tourists, so you can find festive cheer in the city despite the fact it’s not celebrated by the locals.

Since Istanbul receives such a huge influx of tourists, Christmas doesn’t go by unnoticed, with many events, decorations and Christmas markets taking place throughout the month of December.

In this guide, we will share what Christmas in Turkey is like, how the locals may celebrates Christmas, and what you can expect from this festive period.


Officially, Turkey does not celebrate Christmas since the majority of the population identify as Muslim. According to a report by Pew Research Center, 99.8% of Turks identify as Muslim, and since Christmas is a Christian holiday, it is not celebrated by most people.

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day in Turkey are not public holidays and are treated as any other day.

However, Pew Research Center also reported there were 320,000 people who identified as Christian (Oriental Orthodoxy, Greek Orthodox or Armenian Apostolic) who live in Turkey.

Istanbul has a large Christian presence, with 75 Greek Orthodox churches and 48 Armenian Apostolic Churches in the city alone.

Those visiting Istanbul during Christmas will find ceremonies take place at the most famous churches in Istanbul, including Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in the Balat neighborhood, St. Anthony of Padua Church on İstiklal Avenue, St. Stephen’s Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and Three Horan Church.

Although it’s not officially celebrated, those visiting Istanbul and other major cities in Turkey may notice Christmas decorations on display, especially along the famous Istiklal Street and in Istanbul’s shopping malls.

The reason for this is because of tourism. It’s estimated that Turkey’s tourists mostly come from Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom, in which Christianity is the dominant religion for these countries.

Since Turkey receives 6.5 million tourists per month, you can see why they may choose to put up decorations for those visitors. It’s also possible to snow in Istanbul, which means you could have a wonderful White Christmas if you’re really lucky.


Because Christmas isn’t widely celebrated in Turkey, in fact it’s estimated only around 0.2% of the Turkish population celebrate it, you can expect the country as a whole to be “business as usual” on Christmas Day.

You may see some decorations on display, but there won’t be any major parades or festivities happening.

That said, there is a large Christmas Market held outside the Four Seasons Hotel every year from the 8th – 25th December in Istanbul. It’s a huge event with live music, fairground rides and an ice rink.

Other places that may hold ceremonies or events is at the Christian churches, which are mostly located in Istanbul.

Outside of Istanbul, you probably won’t even notice it’s Christmas…

It’s also interesting to note that there is also still a Santa Claus in Turkey. In Turkey, Santa Claus is known as Noel Baba, who is believed to bring gifts on New Year’s Eve instead of Christmas.

So, while Christmas may not be a big deal in Turkey, New Year’s Eve is often celebrated with festive cheer.


Although Christmas isn’t officially celebrated in Turkey, Istanbul is the place to be where you can soak up the holiday spirit.

Istanbul is the best place in Turkey to celebrate Christmas, since it’s the city that has the most going on around the festive period. The Istanbul Christmas Market held at the Four Seasons Hotel is worth checking out to feel the holiday cheer.

You can stroll through beautifully decorated stalls and do some Christmas shopping, sip on warm beverages, and skate around on the ice rink. You can also ride the ferris wheel which overlooks the Bosphorus.

If you’re looking for a more serene and peaceful Christmas experience and you’re not bothered about traditional celebrations, Cappadocia is a fantastic destination.

Imagine waking up on Christmas morning to witness hot air balloons floating across the surreal landscape, and if you’re lucky, it might even snow, which is common during winter in Cappadocia.


While Christmas is not cause for a big celebration, New Year is another matter. The arrival of the new year is embraced with enthusiasm and joy in Turkey, and for the local people and tourists, New Year’s Eve is a big day.

It’s celebrated as it is in most cities, with crowds of people eagerly awaiting the clock to strike midnight and welcoming the new year with fireworks, parties, and family gatherings.

In local culture, New Year’s Eve is a time when people come together to bid farewell to the old and welcome the fresh start.

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.

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.

History Of 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.

Do Turkish People Believe In Santa Claus

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

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?

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 The Christmas Season In 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:


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


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


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

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