City of Athens Mayor Yiorgos Kaminis opened on Friday the municipality’s Christmas and New Year Eve’s holidays festivities amidst booing, offensive gestures and slogans chanted by the gathered crowd.
The one-month festivities across the Greek capital run on a low budget this year due to the recession plaguing Greece for the third year in a row.
There is no big Christmas tree set at the Syntagma Square to be lit this year. Instead, pupils and artists have decorated the natural trees across the square with 1,500 painted tins, promoting the ideas of recycling and participation.
According to Xinhua Agency, the total cost of this year’s celebrations in Athens is expected to reach 200,000 euros (267,480 U.S. dollars), which equals to just one tenth of last year’s expenses.
The poor finances of the country do not allow anymore such expenditures as in 2008, when the Syntagma fancy Christmas tree alone had cost 200,000 Euros.
Amidst rising unemployment, social benefits cuts, heavy recession and low incomes, children dancing along to Athen’s Philarmonic Band’ Christmas songs painted a less gloomy picture and spread hopes for a better future to by-passers.
Nevertheless, Mayor Kaminis had to stop several times his optimistic opening speech, since many people chanted a distorted version of a Christmas carol, going somewhat like this “Jingle bells, bombs and eggs, streets full of despair…”
This Christmas time will be the harshest one in decades for many families across Greece. However, optimism and high spirits are still found among many, who express their strongest belief that the country will eventually make it through the rough times.