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Preparations for the feast of Christmas at the Greek Orthodox church in the earthquake-stricken Hatay, Turkey

The hands of the clock may have stopped on 6 February 2022 with the deadly earthquake that struck Eastern Turkey, however, the Greek Orthodox community in the province of Hatay is preparing to celebrate the Christmas season with reverence. At the centre of the celebrations is the church of Saint George in the Altınözü area, which was severely damaged by the earthquakes about 10 months ago.

The pain caused by the great disaster has given way to hope, with the Greek Orthodox community of the region finding solace in its faith and love for the newly born Christ in the flesh.

Young people and children decorated a Christmas tree inside the church

“Even though Saint George, our central church, was damaged by the earthquake, we will celebrate here,” Father Nikolas Papazoglou told Anadolu News Agency.

The feast day celebrations of the local Christian Orthodox community began their preparations from November 15, with the young people taking part in the choir’s rehearsals for the concert that will take place on Christmas Eve. The well established annual dance of the past years may not take place this year, but the Greek Orthodox community in a climate of unity will celebrate the Great Feast of Christmas.

Part of the historic church collapsed due to the earthquake

The devastating earthquake of February 2022 caused serious damage to parts of the church of Saint George, which dates from 1364, while the corresponding damage to the masonry of the church is equally important.

It is worth noting that it was not the first time that an earthquake caused damage to the historic church, as in 1881 the damage was also quite great. However, within the Greek Orthodox community there is optimism that the resources needed to repair the damage will be found and they will also be able to return to the church, which is one of the most historic churches in the wider region.