In predominantly Christian Zimbabwe, people marked one of their most difficult Christmas holidays ever on Thursday. But political deadlock and hard economic times did not totally dampen the Christmas spirit.
Since the introduction of Christianity in this part of the world, Zimbabweans have celebrated Christmas with much merrymaking. Christmas has been a time of family reunions, going off on holidays and giving thanks.
At a Harare shopping center this Christmas eve, some of that spirit was evident among last-minute shoppers.
"For me as a Christian it's a time to remember what our Lord Jesus Christ did for us on the cross and on the family side, social side, it's family time," one shopper said.
But another shopper, who declined to give her name, said the harsh economic climate, including more than 600 per cent inflation, has meant a scaling down of the celebrations for those who can still afford to celebrate at all.
"It's actually a miserable time for many around me. Christmas time is when you should have fun, enjoy yourself eat more than you normally do and eat all the goodies that you normally don't eat," he said. "But I think it's going to be very hard this year in fact for me it's the most difficult Christmas in as far as expenses go."
Other shoppers expressed the hope for a better life by next Christmas. "We think it would be a good Christmas box if our politicians talk to each other and maybe bring us something positive," said another shopper. "I have never seen beggars in Harare before but this time around I've seen a lot of people asking me for money and I think that's the most humiliating thing for any human being." Another expressed his feelings by saying, "I wish we could go back to the 80s."
'Back to the 80s' means back to the days of euphoria after Zimbabwe got independence from Britain. But that euphoria seems far away. The most Zimbabweans can hope for these days is success in planned talks between the ruling party and the opposition, which many see as the first step toward a possible return to normalcy and prosperity, and perhaps a merrier Christmas next year.