Milad Bayramı and Yeni İliniz Mübarek!
I didn’t manage to get up a Christmas post on time, so you’re getting a Christmas/New Year’s post two weeks late. Not that it really matters, but just so you can rest easily knowing that no matter where I am, we can find a way to make the holidays happen. So…Merry Christmas! Milad Bayramı Mübarek! I spent Christmas in Şirvan, north of Lənkəran, with a bunch of other PCVs. We got together, talked American for a while, made Christmas favorites like Indian dahl, chili, and spaghetti for meals, and generally shared in the good cheer that is Christmas in Azerbaijan. We all were distracted at some point by calls from home (thanks!) Jesse provided the accommodations and the Christmas tree, while Megan and Rikki got creativity points for managing to make enough Christmas stockings for all of us. Şirvan, the city, gets a few points for putting up a reasonably large tree (here it’s a New Year’s tree) in town and also sporting a Santa Claus (Şakta Baba). The extra surprise with that scene was the Mickey Mouse impersonator, who assaulted us with his good cheer as we passed the square. Hope all of your Christmases were as wonderful as mine.
Much to my amusement, however, it turns out that Azerbaijanis have essentially taken our American Christmas celebration and turned it into their New Year’s celebration, with all the fixins like Christmas trees (“New Years trees”, Yeni İl Ağacı), Santa Claus (Şakta Baba), and Christmas songs. It wasn’t, and still isn’t uncommon for me to hear American Christmas songs on the TV, blaring from a New Years celebration (This morning was, “Although it’s been said, many times, many ways…”) And they sing them in English, too. In Lənkəran, they just took down their big tree a few days ago. It was adorning the Heydər Parkı, the main square, in the city. And everyone was taking pictures with Şakta Baba. I went to Baku for New Years, as did many other PCVs. We enjoyed our American time together, and celebrated New Years morning wandering Baku trying to find an open restaurant for breakfast. All the possibilities were closed except for a street place call Shaurma’s. So we had Shaurma for breakfast. Nothing says Yeni İliniz Mübarek (Happy New Year) like shaurmas on New Year’s morning.