Christmas in Zimbabwe, in the past few years, has been a bland affair because of the economic and political turmoil the country was experiencing, but this year there is a real Christmas feeling in the country.
Zimbabweans take Christmas very seriously. However, there was little good cheer for the festive season in the past few years. Now, the country's fortunes seem to be changing for the better since the formation of the national unity government, earlier this year, and the replacement of the worthless Zimbabwe dollar by hard currencies. As a result, Zimbabweans are looking forward to a merry Christmas and hoping for a happy new year.
At a supermarket in downtown Harare, a choir is singing Christmas carols. The parking lot is packed with cars. Onias Katiyo is pushing a cart full of groceries towards his car.
"It's going to be a better Christmas, in the sense that things are available in the shops and the prices are stabilizing," he said.
This time last year, Zimbabweans were dealing with the highest inflation rate in the world and chronic shortages of the most basic goods. Shops were almost empty and people had to get just about all their needs on the black market or cross the borders to neighboring countries to stock up. Gospel musician Stanley Gwanzura, known as Pastor G, is one of the many who made the trip.
"I remember queuing for hours on the border between Botswana and Zimbabwe, trying to bring in some basic goods for Christmas which were not available in the shops," he noted. "So I can safely say this year is better because foodstuffs are available, but I guess the buying power hasn't improved for the person on the street."
Chipo Chashinya echoes Pastor G's sentiments.
"The dollar just came in and not all of us were fortunate to get it so hopefully next year we'll be able to get more of the dollar," she said.
Things may be looking up in Zimbabwe, but people here are very aware that it all depends on the fragile unity government staying intact. Pastor G.
"We pray that it remains the way it is or even improves. The fact that people are talking and working together means that there is at least hope for this nation," he added.
Back at the parking lot, Katiyo expects a lot of the government in 2010.
"We are hoping they will come up with something so we have electricity, clean water… We are looking forward," he said.
Many Zimbabweans see the ending decade as a lost decade. They all hope the upcoming one will not be similarly wasted.