ISTANBUL/ İZMİR /HATAY
The holy night of Christmas was celebrated across Turkey late on Dec. 24, gathering Christians in Turkey and people of all religions and cultures visiting from around the world.
In Istanbul, Christmas ceremonies were held at the Church of Saint George in the garden of the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in the Fatih district, where masses lit candles, prayed and made wishes.
The ceremony, led by Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeus, started at 9:00 p.m. in the garden, followed by a mass in the church, where hymns echoed off the walls of the historical patriarchate.
Istanbul’s Church of St. Anthony also held masses before Christmas, marking the birth of Jesus Christ, like previous years. Attendees of the two-hour-long Christmas service lit candles and prayed, while taking memorable pictures inside the church and garden. Passages from the Bible were read with the accompaniment of prayers and hymns.
In the Aegean province of İzmir, people flocked to the house of Virgin Mary in the Selçuk district, to celebrate Christmas Eve and watch the ceremonies.
The church’s priest called on attendees to make wishes for people next to them and hug them.
“We are begging you for the homeless, the poor, the children, the country, the suffering, the oppressed,” Priest Maciej Sokolowski prayed during the ceremony.
Christmas Eve was also observed in the southeastern provinces of Turkey. The holy night was celebrated at the Orthodox Church of Antakya, located in the province of Hatay.
Orthodox and Catholic attendees celebrated Christmas with separate ceremonies, during which they prayed for world peace.
The service in Antakya’s Orthodox Church was led by the church’s spiritual leader, Jan Deluller, and Priest Dimitri Doğum.
The U.S. Consul General of the southern province of Adana Linda Stuart Specht also joined the ceremony.
At the end of the month, a variety of gifts were distributed to Christian citizens by the Hatay Municipality and its Payas Municipality.
A service was held at the Orthodox Church of İskenderun, a district of Hatay, for Christmas celebrations.
The ceremony at the church began with a minute of silence for Turkish soldiers who died. Church Pastor Dimitri Yıldırım gave a message of unity and solidarity in his speech.