An Unusual New Year Ritual In Antioch on the Orontes (Antakya)

For a number of years our Bethel University groups have flown from Istanbul to Antiochia on the Orontes (also called Syrian Antioch and Hatay) as we began our 26 days of travels in Turkey and Greece—following In the Footsteps of the Apostles.


View looking south southwest over a portion of the modern city of Antakya—ancient “Antioch on the Orontes.”

It was from Antioch that followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:19–26) and from here famine relief was sent to Jerusalem (Acts 11:27–30).  Paul began all three of his missionary journeys from Antioch (Acts 13; 15:35–41; 18:22–23).  It was the capital of the Roman Province of Syria in NT times.

We have often arrived at Antakya just after January 1st.

BusBlood01The first time we were in Antiakya with a student group I got up early to go for a short walk near our hotel.  As I left the hotel I walked by our bus and noticed that there was blood on the front and back bumpers as well as on the wheel hub caps!  We had driven from the airport to the hotel in the dark, but I could not remember that we had hit anything!

What I later found out is that the hotel administration—at the arrival of the first group in the new year—would slaughter (sacrifice?) a sheep or goat and distribute the meat to the hotel staff to encourage good fortune (luck) in the coming year!!  Mystery solved!!!


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