Starting the New Year with ghosts

With each New Year, many people expect at least a slight change in their lives, if not some sort of improvement. This hope is what characterises the New Year. Even the lottery jackpot is at its highest on December 31. Thanks to this “imagination tax,” people who’ve bought lottery tickets wait for the first day of year as the dream about being rich and fantasise about what they would do with their newfound wealth.

Especially in the United States and Europe, one unchanging New Year’s tradition is watching certain shows that are always on TV around Christmas. One is any adaptation of Charles Dickens’ book “A Christmas Carol,’’ and another is Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

Of course, there are other Christmas programmes for kids and young people—A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and the Nightmare before Christmas. But the first two I mentioned are much older and more settled in those cultures.

In A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is an old man who is visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve. One is his friend Jacob Marley, followed by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future. These ghosts show Ebenezer Christmases from different times, causing him to change how he treats the people around him.

Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is a bit different. The character George Bailey, played by James Stewart, is about to commit suicide on Christmas Eve, but he is saved by an angel. After this, Capra tries something that had never been attempted in movies before by showing a life without the leading man. With the angel’s help, Bailey sees what the world would be like if he had never been born and learns how much he changed people’s lives.

In fact, seeing both films just as the New Year is beginning makes people think about their past and present actions and about how effective each individual is at giving happiness or unhappiness to others.

Religions also have a day for people to think about their past actions and ask forgiveness for their mistakes, but this idea is usually easier to understand when it comes in the form of visual arts.

On New Year’s in the West, people enjoy themselves but also think about the past and how they can learn from their mistakes.

In Turkey, the concept of New Year’s is quite different. The main reason for this is that there are people who think that because Turkey is a Muslim country, there shouldn’t be any Christmas celebrations.

Instead of Christmas, the New Year is important in Turkey. In the old days, families came together, and New Year’s was the only time it was acceptable to play bingo and watch belly dancers on TV. Everyone hoped for a big lottery jackpot back then as well.

Although there are Turkish films about how winning the lottery changes people’s lives, such as comedies like Talih Kuşu (Stroke of Luck) and Milyarder (The Billionaire), there is no tradition of showing these films on TV at New Year’s. These days, there are people who say it’s a sin to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s, and they often talk about how in the old days, Turks used to celebrate New Year’s on the night of December 21-22 with the Sunrise Festival.

In Turkey, there are no Christmas celebrations, and if there are celebrations in alternate universes of graphic novels, we wouldn’t know about it. Still, in an alternate universe, I would like it if three ghosts like those from A Christmas Carol would visit the past and future leaders of Turkey. For example, what would they think their mistakes were after a visit from the Ghost of the Past? What differences would they see from the time they took power until the present day? Seeing how they are remembered in the future would the most important part.

I’m guessing that if late former Turkish President Kenan Evren, the leading figure of the 1980 military coup, had been visited by three ghosts during the first year after he declared himself president and especially if the Ghost of the Future showed him what things would be like after his death, he would have given up on a lot of his policies.

Of course it’s easy to talk about past leaders. But what would happen if current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or former president Abdullah Gül were visited by the same three ghosts? That’s really hard to guess, but I don’t think either politician would change his policies.

It would be better if the Ghost of the Future visited Turkey and the entire world. If we saw the kind of world we’d be living in, perhaps we’d stop harming the environment and start putting our resources towards science and space research instead of arming ourselves. We could come out against all forms of violence and minimise the problems caused by the nation-state structure.

I would also like the readers of this article to look at themselves in terms of what happened to George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. What might possibly be different if we had never been born? Who has changed the lives of people they’ve touched without realising it? Perhaps you’ve made a huge contribution to humanity with one small, unconscious favour.

Just imagine. Who knows, but maybe there will be someone like the movie characters who steal Christmas, but instead who load all of the world’s bad things and those responsible for them into their sacks and run away. For the New Year, a sparkling clean world would remain for the good people to live in.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.