Thursday, 14 February 2008

Valentines Day: Western Culture comes to Turkey. Part 1

Capitalism.  Do I know what that word really means?  No, but I think it has something to do with what's going on around here.  If I'm wrong and it's something else, don't tell me because I don't like to be wrong.  Not so many years ago, Valentines Day was unheard of here in Turkey.  Then slowly the younger generation, especially in big cities, began catching on and celebrating it.  And now it's even reaching the middle aged group.  

James' friend Yunus told James the other day that he had just found out about Valentines Day.  James asked him what he was going to do for his wife.  "Well," he replied, stalling and thinking about it, "I'm going to get her a flower." Since he had only just discovered Valentines Day, it hadn't occurred to him that he could do something nice for his wife until James mentioned it.  James told him a flower is good, but suggested he take his wife out to dinner too. "No way!  We don't have that kind of money!" was his reply. 

James: Well, you could make her a special dinner. 
Yunus: That's a good idea.  I'll have her cook me a special dinner.
James:  No, YOU should cook HER dinner.
Yunus:  Um, I don't think so.
James:  She cooks you dinner every night.  You should give her a break and make her dinner.
Yunus: Well, yeah, I guess I could make a salad, go buy some fish and cook it up, and some bread....
James:  She'll love it.
Yunus:  Yeah, maybe I can do that... 

Since James is well practiced in doing special things for his wife, he decided to help Yunus out a bit by making a cd of love songs to play during dinner. 
My friend Neriman was at my house on Valentines Day and was almost giddy with excitement wondering what her husband was going to do for her.  I asked what he normally does and she said, "Nothing.  This is the first year we've known about it!" She has always wanted a diamond ring.  I think cubic zirconium or any sparkly clear stone would work just as well.  She just wants a gold ring with a stone in it.  Apparently they're all the rage and if you have one everyone notices.  She's been asking her husband for one ever since she found out about this whole Valentines Day business.   

How did our friends suddenly find out?  Well we didn't tell them.  The answer lies here.

Do you see all those hearts hanging from the ceiling of our city's mall?  This is the second year we've had this big mall.  I think last year people were just in awe of the lights, the mirrors, the endless shopping possibilities.  By now people are used to the mall and are noticing the finer details, like the Valentines Day advertisements in all the windows.  

The world is changing.  Western culture is being brought into Turkey by the truckload.  The stores say "It's Valentines Day - go buy something for the one you love." And people listen.  By the way, not long ago the mall was all decorated for Christmas.  Or actually New Years (Christmas isn't celebrated, but people are starting to do the western Christmas thing as a way to bring in the new year).  The stores said "It's the New Year!  Put up a tree and buy your kids presents!" And people have started to listen. 

 Oh wait!  Look behind those hanging hearts... the Christmas decorations are still up!  I wonder when they're thinking of taking those down.  Oh well, you can never celebrate too much, ya know? And in case you're wondering, yes, that is McDonalds, the den of sin you're seeing.

So am I a fan of capitalism changing the world? No.  Am I a fan of people slowly losing their own culture and taking on Western traditions?  No.  But, you know what? I can't do anything about it.  And I am a fan of love, and of taking time out to show appreciation to people who are important to us, which brings me back to Yunus and Neriman.    How did these middle aged Turks' first Valentines Day experience go?

I'll let you know tomorrow....  

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