Maria Paravantes Headshot

A Greek Christmas Carol

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It is true that in all cultures and societies the war between good and evil is at the core of life. A battle that for many of us also takes place within, making life a much more testing road to travel. Come Christmas, the battle of good vs. evil comes to the fore. In Eastern cultures, it is in the form of negative energy and shut down chakras, in modern-day cosmopolitan centres, it's all about toxic relationships and energy vampires. In Greek culture, it all comes down to those nasty "kallikantzarous", those shady trolls with tails of demons that make their way to the surface of the earth from their dark underground dwellings to steal, wheel and deal.

Greek culture is wise. It gave the "kallikantzarous" 12 days to come out from the depths of the earth and commit folly. Once those days were over and the waters blessed -- marked in Greece on January 6, Day of the Epiphany -- they would return to their shady subterranean abodes and once again take to grudgingly chopping the massive tree (of life) that supports the earth. Greek lore has it that in the two weeks of the holiday season, right when the tree is about to give way, the "kallikantzari" are tempted to drop their axes and emerge form the depths of darkness to the light of day. In this festive fortnight they roam the roads and homes of the folk seeking to do bad and to lure humans away from the goodness of love.

It seems to me however, that in our times things have changed. The terrible demon-tailed "kallikantzari" are still here, in parliament, secretly passing laws that will do away with what's left of the Greek middle and lower classes, adding even more taxes to the ridiculously high and impossible taxes they've already imposed and rubbing their dirty little hands in pleasure with their "new and improved" methods of collecting cash.

Could it be that Greek politicians are really "kallikantzari" in disguise? Here to torment humans all year round instead of the 12 days of Christmas? One look around a sooty Athens this year and Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" becomes all the more relevant. Very few have decorated their homes, even fewer have prepared for the traditional feasts of Christmas and New Year's, faces on the road are sad and empty, families have decided to cut down on gifts-for- all to gifts-just-for-the-kids, and in too many sad cases there are no gifts and no food at all.

Though many across Europe tend to believe that the Greeks had it coming, it is indeed a sad sight, and reality may I add, for an entire middle and lower class to suffer the loss of basic rights taken for granted by our European neighbors.

Suddenly, hard-working Greeks in their late 30s and mid-40s have no money to turn on the heat, to buy gifts for their children and loved ones, to fill the tank with gas, to fill the fridge with food, to invite friends for dinner, to go out and enjoy a drink in fine company.

Suddenly, money talks and it talks forcefully... there is none... at least none for us. But the worst impact of this EU/IMF-styled laboratory-made crisis that has used Greece and Cyprus as guinea pigs is the fact that all hope for a better future has been stripped away. That younger-generation Greeks are growing up in fear. Fear of losing a job, fear of not finding a job, fear of never getting paid for a job done, fear of physical and even worse psychological illness, fear of dependency, fear of a future with no social security (one that is, however, still being paid for), fear of not knowing someone high up who can help. Fear of a grim tomorrow.

If this isn't Dickens, then what is?

Despite the trials and tribulations of the Greek people thus far, our greedy politicians continue to set a "fine" example of citizenry. One of our former (transport) ministers was caught just last week driving through a stop sign in an uninsured car with fake license plates (to avoid paying taxes). He is now on holidays in Malaysia.

A conscientious teacher who caught the prime minister's son cheating on an exam (and dared to tell) was instantly fired from the prestigious school she has taught at for over 20 years, just three years before her retirement.

And there are many more such stories in a Greece that unlike Ebenezer Scrooge, refuses to learn from the persistent visits of the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come. Ignorance and Want are still holding strong in Greek politics. In the meantime, the despicable "kallikantzari" are left free to roam and ravage... and there is no happy end in sight.