Contribute now!

Take the lead!
Support the cause!

"We use tape to draw a Christmas tree”: Faint Christmas lights in Syria this year

Join the discussion

We’d like to hear from everyone! By joining our Readers' community, you can access this feature. By joining our Readers, you join a community of like-minded people, thirsty to discuss shared (or not!) interests and aspirations.

Let’s discuss!

Life Marginalized Groups

Saturday 24 December 202211:45 am
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

"نستخدم شريطاً مضاءً لنرسم شجرة الميلاد على الحائط"... أهلاً بالميلاد في دمشق

Sitting next to a small Christmas tree with a base made of an empty rocket shell, Buthaina al-Akadi meets Raseef22 inside her home located in the al-Mezzeh area of Damascus. Between smiles and tears on her face, she says, “This is what I was able to get out of our demolished house in Harasta in the Damascus countryside after I visited it the last time.”

The thirty-something young woman collects all her childhood memories with her siblings in this copper piece, and every year she puts it up to remind herself and her family that "life is possible" and that "hope still exists".

Buthaina tells Raseef22, "All the grandmothers here convinced us that Santa Claus usually comes before dawn, when we set up the Christmas tree. He leaves his gifts for the children of the house, and then continues on his way in his carriage drawn by winged horses. They also said that the ‘wish tree’ grants the hopes and wishes that are pinned on it, but this did not happen. Since 2011, Santa has not come, and the tree has not granted any wish; my brother was killed by a stray bullet on the main road, and my sister never came back after she opted to board a death boat in search of a new life in Germany with her husband and children."

"In the past, my father used to put up a big tree for us to hang all our wishes on and decorate it with the latest decorations sold in the markets, but today, after the war, the siege, and the bad economic situation, we can now only put our hopes on what the war left behind in the hope of continuing," recounts Buthaina, whose demeanor showed no sign or indication that she is looking forward or waiting for Christmas.

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


Determination to live

Now that the flames of war have finally died down, the streets of Syria have slowly started to come alive with festive decorations. Earlier this week, the Dama Rose Hotel held a ceremony to light a 33-meter-high hand-made Christmas tree and inaugurate a 400-square-meter cave, the largest of its kind in the Arab world.

This year's celebrations come in an attempt to spread the message that "Syrians want life", despite the difficult economic situation that has left people with no fuel or electricity, in addition to the suspension of many industrial and commercial facilities from working. The Syrian government also issued decisions to suspend all workers and students as a result of the scarcity of energy means, which are the backbone of the country.

The prices of Christmas trees and decorations, like many other commodities, have increased this year, and so the feeling of holiday cheer has become a luxury that the poor and their children do not have access to. The price of one tree ornament like a ball, according to Laila al-Mohsen, who works in the field of handicrafts, sometimes reaches more than 6,000 Syrian pounds, equivalent to one dollar, which means that its price has doubled or tripled compared to last year.

The forty-something woman tells Raseef22, "One tree needs at least 20 balls of this kind, while the price of the star that adorns the top of the Christmas tree reaches up to 30 thousand pounds, equivalent to 5 dollars, and the price of a medium-sized Christmas tree can reach 600 thousand pounds, equivalent to 100 US dollars."


Circumventing reality

To circumvent the hardships of daily life, Kholoud Khaddour, an art teacher, decided, along with her middle school students, to hand craft tree decorations that do not need lighting and are made of glittery materials or safe candle holders, so as not to cause a fire.

Kholoud tells Raseef22, "We collected the largest amount of burnt out lights and damaged long neon lights, and made a tree out of them using adhesive tape to hold it, so we wouldn't have to pay for a tree, the price of which has exceeded one million Syrian pounds. As for decorations, we used cardboard to cut out some ornamental shapes. We did all this within the available capabilities, trying to provide decorative materials in new ways and a beautiful appearance without the use of lights or electricity, and the result was a decent-looking Christmas tree made out of waste.”

"We collected the largest amount of burnt out lights and damaged long neon lights, and made a tree out of them using adhesive tape to hold it up, so we can celebrate Christmas and not have to wait for electricity

The prices of a Christmas tree range between 600 thousand and one and a half million Syrian pounds, or between 100 and 250 US dollars, while the tree can be decorated for an amount not over 300 thousand pounds, equivalent to 50 dollars. A miniature cave can also be placed under the tree, a Christian tradition that symbolizes the place where Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Palestine, at a cost ranging between 150 and 250 thousand pounds, equivalent to 40 US dollars.

According to Elias, 45, these prices are very high and are completely unacceptable, and this has prompted him to put up the old decorations that were already in the house along with some manual modifications that were made by his wife from plastic cups and cardboard.

"The children and adults in this country have seen some very difficult years due to the ongoing political, economic, living, and security instability. The high prices have put us on the chopping block, gnawing at our bodies before our souls, so instead of buying decorations at a high cost, we prefer to buy the sweets that we serve on the holidays, even though their cost exceeds our monthly salaries," Elias tells Raseef22.

According to the latest figures issued by the Central Bureau of Statistics, the inflation rate in Syria reached 163.1 percent in 2020


A bad economic situation

Economists have warned of inflation in the Syrian economy reaching the stage of hyperinflation, which is the most harmful state for the economy, due to the rapid and continuous rise in the general level of prices, which leads to money losing its purchasing value.

According to the latest figures issued by the Central Bureau of Statistics, the inflation rate in Syria reached 163.1 percent in 2020, adding that it is expected to head towards an increase of 12 percent in 2022, and 9.80 percent in 2023 based on econometric models. The value of the Syrian pound has decreased tenfold during the past years, with the exchange rate today reaching around 6,000 Syrian pounds for one dollar. In addition, the unemployment rate in Syria has risen to more than 60%, while about 90% of the population inside the country lives below the poverty line.

Holidays of all kinds are an excuse for higher prices in their relevant supplies, made higher than other days of the year because the holidays are a season for massive amount of purchases, and these prices have increased significantly compared to last Christmas.

Bad circumstances have led George and Linda to devise a new way to celebrate Christmas, deciding to hang a strip of light on the wall in the shape of a tree, so what other ways have others come up with?

These bad circumstances have led George and Linda to devise a new way to celebrate Christmas, as they decided to hang a strip of light on the wall in the shape of a tree. "We paid 10,000 pounds for the green tape, and 15,000 pounds for the electrical tape, and we made a big star and five red balls out of cardboard, meaning that the cost of our modest tree is about 25,000 pounds. Even though I would have liked to put the Christmas tree in our house, I work in an accessories shop, while Linda works as a children's teacher, and our total salary combined does not exceed 500,000 pounds, so we would need to spend all our income just to light a real tree during these bitter days," George tells Raseef22.

Christmas this year looks different in the city that’s shrouded by darkness, where its people are burdened by hardship and the difficulty of securing a daily living. The attempts to decorate or put up Christmas trees and hang up colored ropes instead of Christmas lights, are like applying makeup on a lifeless corpse; What festive holiday can be spent without electricity or joy? From the city of Damascus all the way to the rest of the Syrian provinces, a general air of a sad Christmas can be felt and seen, with scenes detailing Syrians trying to turn their current tragedy into small joys that they could share during these festive days, but are not able to do so. 



Raseef22 is a not for profit entity. Our focus is on quality journalism. Every contribution to the NasRaseef membership goes directly towards journalism production. We stand independent, not accepting corporate sponsorships, sponsored content or political funding.

Support our mission to keep Raseef22 available to all readers by clicking here!

WhatsApp Channel WhatsApp Channel

A platform for the brave, bold and courageous

We in the Arab world have long avoided addressing a large number of taboos. This has left our hope for change teetering on the brink of despair.

At Raseef22, we fearlessly scrutinize certain delicate concepts and highlight the journeys of the courageous individuals who have dared to challenge the corrupt status-quos.

We seek to provide a platform where brave and honest voices are heard, undeterred by efforts to silence or censor them.

Website by WhiteBeard