Gift purchases are dow n, Christmas lights are dim, and families are suffering.
The euro zone debt crisis has put a damper on this festive time of year in southern Europe. In Greece, families say they're turning off the heat and skipping meat at Christmas dinner. Lisboners will be cutting back on gifts (one cleaning lady told Reuters she will only give "bare necessities"). And Italian civil servant Nadia di Santo, 38, told the outlet:
"I am buying no gifts this year. None, except for the children. Last year I bought presents for everyone, friends and family ... I have put up the tree, although I am using the same decorations as last year. I will sort something out for Christmas dinner."
Shop owners haven't been spared. Many report a steep drop in sales, along with unusually quiet storefronts. "We were selling three times as much this time last year," butcher Jesus Cerelo told Reuters.
Things are worst in Greece. According to one resident:
"Family is very important to us Greeks so the worst thing is when you are not able to provide for them," said 70-year-old pensioner Nikos Tsakos. Two of his three children, in their 30s and 40s, are out of work and he has two small granddaughters.
"Sometimes my wife and I cry when we realise we will not be able to buy the girls toys this year ... we cut back on everything - decorations, food. How can you celebrate when things are so bad?"
People eat pasta at a soup kitchen in a small square at Keratsini suburb, west of Athens. (Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters)