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A Dark Christmas Coming For Greece

Greek Dark Christmas

With Greeks limping to the end of a fifth year of recession and readying for another, along with more pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions, many are foregoing Christmas celebrations or planning family gatherings with everyone chipping in for food.

Athens has cut its Christmas budget by 90 percent  – there is no tree in the city’s center of Syntagma Square as traditional – and an annual Christmas village there is missing this year. In neighborhoods around the city, as in other cities and towns across Greece, there are few Christmas lights being put up by municipalities or on private homes. There seems to be little Christmas spirit in the age of austerity.

The Syntagma tree was burned down by protesters in 2010, the first year of austerity measures that were imposed as Greece went hand-in-hand to international lenders to beg for help to keep the economy from collapsing.

Last year, Athens officials, perhaps hoping to show some spirit and deflect the suffering of many, erected Europe’s biggest Christmas tree on the spot which this year has been replaced by some kind of art display.

“This year’s Christmas events do not aim at an easy and ornate spectacle and they are not based on thoughtless waste,” Athens Mayor George Kaminis said, according to the British newspaper The Guardian. Kaminis said the city couldn’t afford to do more and that while “young and old alike” would be entertained with music, theatre, dance, carols and clowns, it would be a muted merry-making.

The Guardian noted that with Athens barely able to pay its bills, only three central squares and the city’s biggest boulevards are to be illuminated, in stark contrast to years gone by when there was money to spend. “Our goal this year,” said City Councillor Vasilliki Georgiou, “is to spread the real meaning of Christmas – solidarity, love and fraternity.”

In the spirit of the, Syntagma Square, the gathering place for more than 2 ½ years of protests, strikes and riots against austerity, has 16 miniature trees carved by fine arts students in Athens. There’s also an ice rink sponsored by the mobile telephone company Wind, but with the weather relatively mild there’s difficulty in keeping it frozen.

“There’s also going to be a light show so the tree will look very different at night,” a municipal employee overseeing last-minute preparations ahead of the unveiling told the newspaper.“And there’ll be music too,” she said as trumpeters and saxophonists with the town hall’s orchestra got into the mood with a jazzy rendition of Christmas carols.

In the western port city of Patras, there’s also a damped-down Christmas as officials insteade turn trying to help people who are struggling. “Last year we fed 800 families living below the poverty line,” Theoharis Massaras, who as deputy mayor directs the municipality’s social services, told The Guardian.

Times are so tough that Thessaloniki’s Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, a wine company owner, said he can’t afford the oil to heat his apartment and is using a blanket instead.

The Athens News Agency noted that many Greeks will have a “Refene” Christmas, a Turkish word meaning that expenses will be shared by family members. Unemployment is at a record 26 percent, some 68,000 businesses have closed and thousands more are expected to close because more strikes are keeping shoppers – those few with money – from getting around or into the city’s center.

Beggars abound, as do the homeless, with growing numbers including people who used to have professions but now have park benches and cardboard boxes as residences in the chilly nights. Storefronts have been empty for so long the grime has covered what’s left of the detritus inside.

ANA reported that there’s sparse crowds  at the annual annual Christmas Bazaar in the National Gardens adjacent to the Parliament, where lawmakers have been the target of protests and where the government has exempted workers there from more pay and benefit cuts.

Nobody is buying children’s books, or artisanal pieces or komboloi, the traditional secular rosaries which Greeks hold in their hands to chase away bad thoughts. The same scene can be seen in the tourism district of Plaka: the souvenirs are all there and few tourists walk by without buying anything, ANA reported. It could be remembered as the year Greece didn’t celebrate Christmas.

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  • identitytheftnotahumanright

    No worries. I’m sure leftists like Santa Andy will go around handing out free money out of his own pocketbook.

    Oh wait a second… what “generous’ leftists like Andy really mean is they want someone else to give away their money. This is the sort of values far leftists in Greece have been teaching other Greeks for decades right?  Blame the government and producers in our society for everything that goes wrong in our lives. The poor have absolutely no moral accountability for their own actions. It’s someone elses fault.

    The government is to blame that we don’t have a job. Surely our choice to become a post modernist social scientist that specializes in feminist human rights for a cushy government job had absolutely nothing to do with it. Clearly having no skills as a physicist,  mathematician, electrical engineer or geneticist had absolutely nothing to do with. it. Clearly striking against “the man” for the “injustice” of the government not giving us their money (i.e. other Greeks, the EU, the IMF)….rather than innovating to produce something someone else wants has nothing to do with it.

    Give me your money comrades….or else.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Curzon-Dax/1097871701 Curzon Dax

    Don’t be extremist of the other side. Their argument is sometimes that even hard working people are thrown aside.

    There are those being fed by the state that had made the country a virtual communist state but that doesn’t make all Greeks horrible as your aphorism implies, or at least not even all leftists.

  • Nikolas25

    No you’re right.

    You can take me for example, or my friends that we’re lazy SOB’s.

    We only graduated from universities with 1-2 Master’s degrees,
    we only worked for 10-14 yrs (even when studying, Full-time jobs) for 10-12hrs/day in the private sector (where you can’t hide your income as an employee and where you were paying your taxes, bills etc).
    we only had to serve our country in the military for 2 yrs… etc.etc.

    and then suddenly the “correct” government as you say,
    came and increased our taxes,
    reduced our salaries to 350 €/ month,
    reduced my father’s pension by 50 % (he only worked for 45 yrs, starting from the age of 16) and
    in the end when I stayed unemployed gave me for 12 months the outrageous amount of 385€ to survive!

    At the same time take a look on our “correct” government’s politicians and their “firends” where their wealthy increased suddenly, € 600 mio have been deposited only on swiss banks and their of-shore companies have been magically proven very profitable!?!?!?

    Now, let’s come back to reality, where I’m abroad right now, living in a shit-hole, working hard to earn my living and support my family back home and at the same time fighting for my right to be called Hellinas (Greek if you don’t know the word) and enlightening the “civilized” locals where the democracy started (they even don’t know that) and why the “lazy” Greeks are protesting!

    yes, you’re right…It’s not the government’s fault that I don’t have a job or money, It’s my fault and my great-great grandfather’s fault that we didn’t kick-out from the country all the “globalized and “civilized” Europeans and Americans ideas and spirits and retain my culture, heritage and language!

    so, “comrade” go to your “civilized” village and leave me alone in mine. I’ll survive, as always. Oh…btw you can also have your “generous” political system back. I think I’ll go back to my ancient Democratic laws of Pericles…
     

  • Sarkaflya

    What about all the Pakis and Afghans?  How are they being fed? Who feeds them? How often?