Concerns about the European debt crisis and high unemployment are sapping the Christmas holiday spirit in some of Europe's capitals.
Along the Gran Via in Madrid, the holiday lights are up but do little to brighten the mood - shoppers and pedestrians are getting used to disappointment.
One woman complained that the lights were very, very poor this year and will do little to cheer up those with little or nothing.
Even as night fell, many of the lights displays remained dark. Those that did come on, got a smattering of applause.
Cities like Madrid are cutting back on holiday decorations, part of austerity measures during a growing fiscal crunch that has dampened spirits across the continent.
A school teacher said there needs to be savings, but she hopes they will turn on more lights to create a beautiful atmosphere.
In Lisbon, Portugal, city officials did away with the traditional light displays altogether, prompting one local designer to take action. She says the usual light displays were too expensive but that she hopes the lit-up art displays make people smile.
The Associated Press says Lisbon hopes to save more than $900,000 by turning off the traditional lights.
The impact on crucial holiday sales remains to be seen.
Some Lisbon shopkeepers said the tough economy and gloomy outlook are forcing them to innovate more than ever to keep reluctant customers coming in.