“We use light tape to draw a Christmas tree on the wall”… Welcome to Christmas in Damascus

In her home in the Mezzeh district of Damascus, Buthaina Al-Aqadi sits next to a small Christmas tree whose base is made from a “blank” missile bullet, and between tears and a smile filling her face, she says: “This is what I came out of our ruined house in Harasta on the outskirts of Damascus after I visited him for the last time.”

The 30-something year old collects all her childhood memories with her siblings in this brass piece, putting it on every year to remind herself and her family that “life is possible” and that “hope still exists.”

Buthaina tells Raseef22: “The grandmothers assured us that ‘Santa Claus’ usually comes before dawn, when we put up the Christmas tree, leaves his gifts for the children in the house and walks in his chariot pulled by winged horses. They also said that the wish tree fulfills hopes related to him, but that didn’t happen.” Since 2011, Santa Claus has not come and the tree has not fulfilled any wishes: my brother was killed by a stray bullet on the public road, and my sister, who stayed in Germany after preferring to ride the death ship in search of a new life with her children and husband , she did not return.

“In the past, our father put a big tree on which we hung all our wishes and decorated it with the latest decorations that are sold in the markets, and today, after the war, the siege and the bad economic situation, we put our hopes in what the war left behind in hope it continues,” says Buthaina, whose face did not appear. Any indication that she was waiting for a feast.

The prices of Eid trees range between 600 thousand and one and a half million Syrian pounds, or between 100 and 250 US dollars.

insisting on life

The streets of Syria have been decorated since the end of the war, and yesterday the Damarose Hotel organized a ceremony to light a 33-meter high handmade Christmas tree and to officially open the 400-square-meter cave, the largest cave in the Arab world. world.

This year’s celebration tries to convey that “Syrians want life”, despite the difficult economic situation. There is no fuel and electricity, and in addition many industrial and commercial facilities have been suspended. The Syrian government has also made decisions to suspend all workers and students as a result of the lack of energy resources that are the backbone of the country.

Christmas trees and decorations, as well as various goods, have become more expensive this year, so the holiday feeling has become a luxury that the poor and their children do not have access to. The price of one decorative ball, according to Laila Al-Mohsen, who works in handicrafts, sometimes reaches more than six thousand pounds, which is equivalent to one dollar, which means that its price has doubled or more than last year.

A woman in her forties told Raseef22: “One tree needs at least 20 balls of this type, while the price of the star that adorns the top of the Christmas tree reaches thirty thousand, which is equivalent to $5, while the price of a medium-sized Christmas tree can reach 600,000 Syrian pounds .” , which is equivalent to 100 dollars.

bypass reality

To get around life’s difficulties, Kholoud Khaddour, a drawing teacher, and her high school students decided to make tree decorations that don’t need lighting, and are made of high-gloss materials or safe candlesticks so they don’t cause a fire.

Kholoud tells Raseef22: “We collected the largest number of burnt-out lamps and damaged long neon lights and made a tree out of them using adhesive material to fix them well. Thus, we saved the cost of the tree which exceeded one million Syrian pounds. As for the decorations, we used cardboard for making many shapes within our possibilities. which are available to us, we try to provide decorative materials of new styles and beautiful appearance without the need for electricity, and the result is a Christmas tree from waste with a beautiful structure.”

We collected the largest number of burnt-out lights and damaged long neon lights and made a tree out of them by attaching them well with glue, so that we can celebrate the holiday without waiting for electricity

The prices of Eid trees range between 600 thousand and one and a half million pounds, that is, between 100 and 250 US dollars, and the tree can be decorated for an amount not exceeding 300 thousand, which is the equivalent of 50 dollars, and a cave can be placed under the tree, which is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the place where he was born. It features Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, Palestine, at a price ranging between 150 and 250 thousand, which is equivalent to 40 dollars.

These prices are unacceptable and very high, according to Elias (45 years old), which prompted him to put old decorations in the house, along with some manual modifications on them, made by his wife from plastic cups and cardboard.

“Difficult years have passed for children in this country and its adults, due to security, political, economic and life instability. High prices put us on the altar, they bite our body before our soul. Therefore, instead of buying ornaments at an expensive price, we prefer to buy the sweets we offer on Eid, even though their price exceeds what we receive in terms of monthly salaries,” Elias tells Raseef22.

According to the latest data released by the Central Statistical Organization, the inflation rate in Syria reached 163.1 percent in 2020.

Bad economic situation

Economists have warned that inflation in the Syrian economy is entering the phase of hyperinflation, which is the most harmful form of the economy, due to the rapid and continuous growth of the general price level, which leads to the loss of the purchasing value of money.

According to the latest data published by the Central Statistical Organization, the inflation rate in Syria reached 163.1 percent in 2020, and the inflation rate in Syria is expected to have a growth trend of 12 percent in 2022, or 9.80 percent. in the year 2023, According to econometric models, the value of the Syrian pound has fallen ten times in recent years, because today the exchange rate has reached about 6 thousand Syrian pounds for one dollar, in addition, the unemployment rate in Syria has risen to more than 60%, and about 90 % of the population lives within the country. The country is below the poverty line.

Various holidays represent another opportunity for higher prices in the accompanying necessities, which rise compared to other days of the year, since the holidays are the season of mass purchases, and these prices have increased significantly compared to last Christmas.

Bad conditions prompted George and Linda to come up with a new way to celebrate Christmas, so they hung a string of lights in the shape of a tree on the wall, so what else did they innovate?

These bad conditions encouraged George and Linda to come up with a new way to celebrate Christmas, they decided to hang a light strip in the shape of a tree on the wall. George told Raseef22: “We paid £10,000 for the green tape and £15,000 for the electrical tape, and we made a big star and five red balls out of cardboard, which means the cost of our humble tree is around £25,000, although I was hoping that I’m going to put up a Christmas tree in our house. But I work in a hardware store, while Linda works as a children’s teacher, and our combined salary does not exceed £500,000, and we need all our income to light a real tree in these bitter days.”

This Christmas looks different in a city shrouded in darkness, and its people burdened with hardships and difficulties in securing their daily existence. Attempts to decorate or install Christmas trees and tie colorful ropes of lights are like applying cosmetics to a dead body. What holiday do we spend without electricity or headlights? turn into little joys. which they share in the days of Eid, and sometimes they can’t.

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