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Greek Santa Claus has the working hours of a civil servant

26 December 2010 / 14:12:36  GRReporter
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Greek Santa Claus or Saint Vassilis as he is known in the Mediterranean country announced that he will be available for the children in the ancient capital from 10.30 am to 16.30 pm. Of course, with a half-an-hour break at noon to eat his sandwich, which Mrs. Claus has prepared for him. Like the Greek civil servants the old man with the grey beard had a "lunch break" and left a queue of surprised and angry young children who were wondering "Well, when will my turn come?"

"Santa Claus is in a lunch break. Come back in half an hour". This was what the elf was saying while standing in front of the house of Saint Vasilis at the National Garden and Zappeio Park in the Greek capital, when mothers, fathers and grandparents came to the doorstep of the home of the good old man with grey beard to please the youngest members of their families. The village, Santa Claus himself, the elf and his colleagues the dwarves who reside in the last week in the heart of Athens next to the National Assembly are the initiative of the Athens Municipality. This year again like the past years, municipal authorities organized a Christmas Bazaar and an enchanted village in the city center, which however proved neither very festive nor enchanted.

"Christmas with so few people never happened" complained the seller of donuts, who each year in the last five took part in the holiday bazaar. He said that there is almost no interest in Christmas celebrations this winter and people have no festive mood. The girls from the pavilion next to him selling traditional Christmas toys said that regardless of the good weather citizens and tourists do not go downtown. The average temperature each day this week varied between 17-21 degrees Celsius, but regardless of that Greeks did not go out for a walk to enjoy the nice weather, as they did in previous years. "All these strikes, protests, lack of public transport and the sense of anxiety repels people," explained the girl behind the counter with Christmas ornaments.

After the loss at the municipal elections, Nikitas Kaklamanis’ plan to create a splendid festive atmosphere with a budget of around 2.5 million euros failed. And Thank God! The entire decoration of the city as well as the creation of the Christmas bazaar is worth about 70 percent less than the originally planned borrowed municipal money. The apathetic festive atmosphere according to most of the citizens is due neither to the lack of a giant Christmas tree on Syntagma square nor to the bright colored and numerous lights on the streets. The problem is what will happen after the holidays pass.

A journalist from the Greek media a few days ago admitted to me: "It's clear that there is no other way - pensions and salaries will be permanently reduced, jobs will be lost, good employment prospects for young people will decline and overall the economy will shrink to levels which hitherto we did not know. If regardless of that the politicians fail to cope with this, and in two years time, we are still in the same situation, how much worse can things get"? In two sentences he expressed the concerns of every Greek today. As by the book with the five steps of the loss, the Greeks are currently passing through the second one. After they did not believe (first step) that Greece is in such a miserable economic situation with over 310 billion euros foreign debt and 15.4 percent of GDP budget deficit, now they are angry (second step). With almost 1000 strikes, protests and rallies for the year, the Christmas in 2010 will be remembered as lifeless and alarming. If indeed this cycle continues in 2011 we can expect bargaining, depression and acceptance of the economic reality as it is.

Despite all, life goes on. Not as most people were accustomed to until now, but everything continues. Except for the well known festive kiosks with toys, books, gifts at the bazaar in Zappeio, the favorite for the youngest carousels, candy cotton, ponies and clowns still attract the families. And even if Santa Claus does not come back from his lunch break there will always be gifts for the youngest children.

Tags: Christmas crisis five steps of the loss Greece civil servants Santa Claus
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