Celebrating Christmas and caroling was recently prohibited - in Santa Claus' very own hometown.
According to the BBC, Istanbul Lisesi, a high school that has existed for more than a century, has 35 German teachers, funded by the German government. Last week, the teachers received an email from the National Ministry of Education reading, "According to a decision by the Turkish authorities, from now on nothing is to be taught or celebrated about Christmas and the Christian festival in the classroom."
German broadcast media Deutsche Welle (DW) reported that the school management denied that they banned celebrating Christmas. However, the same outlet also quoted the school as stating that German teachers have recently been "talking about Christmas and Christianity in a way that was not foreseen by the curriculum."
The Telegraph reports that politicians in Germany reacted with anger to the new rule, and accused Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of attempting to "eradicate the final vestiges of religious and ethnic variety, because he personally feels his leadership is threatened by harmless Christmas songs".
Franz Josef Jung, religious affairs spokesman for Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, branded it "totally unacceptable."
"If Germany pays for the teachers at this school, it can also determine the content of the lessons," he said. "The government must press Ankara on this."
The controversy also prompted a caricature of Erdogan that appeared on the front page of DW, dressed as the fictional character The Grinch, entitled, "Stolen Christmas."
Amid backlash, a spokesperson for the German foreign ministry said on Monday afternoon that there was no "ban" on teaching Christmas at the school after all and that "hopefully all misunderstandings have been resolved".
World Watch Monitor points out that the ban on Christmas is ironic, as Turkey is the homeland of the real Santa Claus. St Nicholas, who secretly left gifts for poor children, was in fact Bishop Nicholas who lived in c.300 AD in Demre (formerly known as Myra), in Lycia, Southern Turkey. Church history teaches that Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea, close to Istanbul, where 300 early Church Fathers agreed on their core beliefs as followers of Jesus Christ.
According to The Guardian, the controversy comes with relations already strained over Turkey's EU aspirations and German criticism of the crackdown against opponents of Erdogan following July's failed coup.
The relationship between the two countries has also soured over the German parliament's vote to recognize the Armenian genocide and the failed attempt to prosecute of a German comedian for insulting Erdogan.