This Christmas Eve looked nothing like it did last year. Or the year before.
Three girls and four boys wandered down the street of one of Istanbul’s busiest squares. Losing themselves to the chaos. Searching for an address that didn’t exist. They stopped a moment in front of a catholic church to soak in lights shining from a Nativity scene behind bars; acknowledging the holy reverence due because of the baby in the manger. It was a short-lived moment, for one of the girls was suddenly spit upon by a scrooge lurking at the gate.
Thus the walking commenced again. They were directed down a steep set of stairs, finally finding the answer to their hungry stomachs through a door identifying the place to be ‘The Taj Mahal’. It was a unique dinner experience. They ordered in Turkish, satisfied their palates with Indian food, and conversed in English. One girl simply could not hide the glee bubbling inside– she was so happy to be doing exactly what she was doing exactly where she was exactly who she was with.
The evening continued; it followed the group deep into the heart of the earth to the subway, then up again unto the paved roads shadowed by a starless sky. Their bus-driver wildly sped back into time, making the group appreciate their lives more after they had survived the jolting journey.
Laughing about the crazy events, they skipped along into a familiar neighborhood and rang the house of their next destination. The room erupted into welcome and the party proceeded with karaoke, dance, and more food. Americans, Albanians, Turks, Filipinos, Muslims and Christians. A joyful spirit united the beautiful blend of cultures into one heart–all brought together because of a God who loved the world so much that He gave up His son.
Counting down to midnight, the very merry people burst into song, announcing Christmas to have arrived. Indicating the party over, the clock’s hands ushered the guests into their coats and out the door. Three girls and four boys content beyond thought. It was a Christmas Eve well spent.
Next year, when asked to reflect on past Christmas Eves, this one will be near the top of their list. Although it was non-traditional it was nonetheless meaningful, for which its memory will never be forgotten.