Reports that the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had “banned #Christmas” at a German-backed bilingual school in Istanbul caused a diplomatic row between the two countries when it was first reported in the media a few days ago. But now the Istanbul Lisesl, which has been in operation since 1884, has denied that the “ban” ever took place and put it all to a misunderstanding.

Relations between Turkey and the rest of the world have already become raw because of Erdoğan’s increasingly repressive rule and his alliance with Islamist groups. Then a number of teachers at the Istanbul Lisesl reported that they had been told by Turkish government officials that they could no longer teach about German Christmas traditions in their classrooms and had to remove calendars that displayed the advent season from school property.

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A Christmas concert had been cancelled with no explanation. There are reports that Christmas caroling and cookies have also been prohibited.

The imparting of Christmas tradition has been a long standing example of cross cultural teaching between the German teaching staff and the Turkish student body. The idea that the Turkish government was interfering in this arrangement caused a number of German politicians to suggest that the Ankara government was closing off ties to Europe. Some have demanded that the government of Angela Merkel summon the Turkish ambassador to demand an explanation,

Germany and Turkey have been allies since the 19th Century. The two countries fought on the same side during the First World War. Germany has a large ethnic Turkish population as a result of a guest worker program in the 1960s and 1970s.

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So events in Turkey, especially in the wake of the failed coup, are of special interest in Germany.

Now officials in both Germany and Turkey are denying that such a ban on Christmas ever took place, That being the case, one can wonder why people thought that the ban was being imposed to start with. It is possible that Turkey is backing off an assault on German Christmas traditions by pretending that it was all a misunderstanding, a common diplomatic method of smoothing over a controversy.