Poorer Santa Claus 2010 in Romania

19:59, December 23, 2010      

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The Obor market in central Bucharest, one of the most popular, best supplied and the cheapest markets, attracts equally big crowds and bustling with similar busy life like any December. People's shopping habits, however, has changed significantly this year.

While people queue up in front of fresh pork and sausages stands and in front of counters full with spices, cheese, olives, chocolates, candies, and ingredients for their salade de boeuf which is a must for the Christmas meal, they barely look at the sections displaying clothes, toys, or decorations, much less to buy any.

Rarely, an old man may buy warm winter underwear, or a mother may buy a pair of two-euro (about 2.6 U.S. dollar) cotton gloves for her child. Once in a while, a lady may buy a 20-euro winter jacket or a more expensive item for the house because she really needs it.

A survey by GfK CR Academy Brussels in 12 European countries and in the United States shows that Rumanians are the last Europeans to buy Christmas gifts this year.

According to the survey, 67 percent of Romania's population will spend much less than previous years and roughly a third of them spends nothing at all on gifts.

Those who stick to traditions will struggle to have something placed under the Christmas tree and make small gifts to their family and dearest friends.

While gifts greatly shrink in number, the preferences remain the same, clothes, watches, fine drinks and chocolates.

For millions of middle class people whose salaries were cut by 25 percent, their shopping incentives were considerably slashed, too. For hundreds of thousand who have been laid off, trips to the mountains, new decorations for the Christmas tree, gifts or going out in town for the Christmas dinner has become a luxury they can no longer afford.

A public servant who earns 200 euros (264 U.S. dollars) per month can no longer buy a nice, big Christmas tree that costs 30 euros (39.6 dollars). People will use the older decorations, will buy only fir tree branches and wreaths that cost much less.

A 72-year retired woman, dragging her feet through the market, a 40-year-old mother of two, a smiling young couple will tell you the same: "We cannot afford fir trees or anything else but food this year: we must be very tight-fisted because we must put some traditional food on the table, it cannot be otherwise!"

Pork, mince and pork sausages are the popular ingredients for the Christmas food. Pork price has risen a little this year to cover the taxes and the lack of sales before December.

Years ago, the tradition required families to buy new clothes for children and take them to church. In 2010, children are lucky enough if they find a small gift under the Christmas tree and if their parents can afford enough chocolate candies and traditional food for Christmas time.

Yet, Romanians prove once again this year that they are survivors and they deserve admiration. People's faces are not sulky. They complain about being unable to afford to buy many things as before, they have become extremely choosy, and they weigh differences of 50 cents in prices.

But people still see smiling faces on the street as they enjoy the marvelous Christmas atmosphere created by local administrations in parks, streets and markets.

Source: Xinhua

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