Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Night Before Christmas: Greece 2014

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the land
Not a civil servant was stirring, no offices manned;
The melomakarona* were laid on the table with care,
In hopes that Kostakis soon would be there;

Little Alexi was nestled all snug in his bed,
Visions of election and power in his head;
Bills to be paid by New Year on the floor,
Light, heat, phone and taxes galore;
The children left their trigona** untouched,
Knowing their jingling won’t gather much;
The days of profit from their song are no more,
“Na ta poume?”*** most likely to meet a closed door.

Piles of rags in shop doorways shuddered,
No home, no Christmas, they no longer mattered;
Shave-headed trolls were sleeping til Dawn,
With dreams of “Ellas über alles” and burning crosses on lawns;

When out in the street there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon shone weakly through the wood-smoky air,
Giving a hazy view of what I saw there,
And what to my eyes appeared at the gates?
A bullet-proof Mercedes with ministerial plates.

The driver had glasses and he frowned as he muttered,
I thought for a moment it was Harry Potter.
But no, no magic, it was just Samaras,
Waving promises like a priest performing at Mass.

Beside him appeared a fat red-robed elf
Who started to take all our gifts from the shelf;
He had a broad face and a big round belly
That shook when he laughed – yes, it was Vangeli.

I watched as our visitors took gifts from the tree,
To hand over to Troika and cover their fee.
Yiayia and Pappou**** slept on, I should mention,
Worn out from hours in queues for their pension.

With a wave of his hand and a wink of his eye,
Our guest took the coin from our New Year’s Pie.
Yet I knew in the morn he’d be pious in church,
Not giving a jot that we’re left in the lurch.

As I gathered my thoughts and prepared for the morrow,
I decided for one day to put aside sorrow.
So as we head towards Yuletide, I say with good cheer,
“Happy Christmas” to all,
....but to politicians “Ai sihtir!”*****

[Explanatory notes for non-Greek residents and others not in the know:

*Melomakarana are Greek honey traditionally served at Christmas

**Trigona – the musical triangles Greek kids use as a clattering accompaniment to the traditional Christmas carol they sing from door-to-door on Christmas and New Year’s Eves to collect for money (usually for their own pockets, not charity).

***”Na ta poume?” Literally “Shall we sing it?” as a prelude to the Christmas carol once the door has been opened.

****Yiagia and Pappou – Grandma and Grandad

****“Ai sihtir!” is a curse used is Greek (though stolen from Turkish) which roughly translates as “Sod off!”]