Here in Crete’s capital our neighbors just done’t know what to think. The throngs of tourists the leaders brought for vacation, they’re gone. They didn’t leave enough money though. Not enough to sustain us after earthquakes, a year’s long pandemic, and an uncertainty that’s really sinking in now. And Christmas 2021 will probably be an economic catastrophe for many vendors.
All around, as I walk my Cretan Hound Mojito, I see the light fixtures, the colors of red and green. But nowhere have I seen the light of Christmas joy in a pair of eyes. In every face I do see a soft reflection of hope, there in the corners of their smiles. And maybe, just maybe this is where the real spirit of joy can be found this troubling season. Nothing is like it was in the past. Well, almost nothing.
I was talking with the owner of a local healthy eating bakery this morning when I realized it, 2021 is another emotional wash, maybe even worse than 2020 and lockdowns. There’s no business. There’s only movement, mostly in cars. Heraklion citizens seem to be only scurrying about, as if waiting for the next foot to fall. With a new, perhaps even deadlier variant of COVID already in Greece, the people are just beat up. This share from Cretalive News is from the Christmas market in Heraklion’s main square that is normally packed with Heraklion residents ready to ring in the holidays. When I see this, I remember all our Christmas joy from the past, and it’s devastating.
Instagram can serve as a gaugefor Christmas 2021, look at the hashtag #Heraklion. It’s all about advertisements now. People are not sharing their lives. What can this mean? For users of social media, there’s no greater purpose than sharing life’s moments. But all the most popular shares are from summer, beach time, not from now. Some are trying, though.
In Heraklion there are many neighborhoods of a fashion that reminds me of America long ago. Every intersection has it’s own baker, butcher, grocer, doctor, mechanic, appliance dealer, and a score of cafes and coffee shops. Living here you get to know people intimately. My friend Akis, the baker, loaned me €50 the other week, when the ATM quit working at the bank around the corner. Kiki, my friend who’s the pharmacist, follows our Facebook religiously, to find out where we adventures to lately. She’s busy, crazy busy, and tired from the constant pressure of COVID. Next door at Crumb Healthy Living, where I always take morning coffee, Konstantina struggles to smile now, business in Crete is shattered even for the most creative and successful people.
I walked this morning to Elefthria Square, to experience for myself what is happening to our city. I forgot my COVID vaccination papers and left my phone in the car. Armed with the Nikon, I snapped some photos which, ironically, reflect where we all are this Christmas season. Ordinarily, the sculptures guarding the entrance to the Christmas market would be tasteful icons of the Christ child. Now, with everyone hollowed out by this crisis, the sculptures mimic our cardboard lives.
After the Christmas market, and not having my QR code for entry requirements, I headed back here to see what I’d captured in the camera lens. The photo of my friend Adonis at Phylossophies was blurred, the sky washed out behind him. I wanted to end this story with an upbeat and hopeful hero, which he always is no matter what. Then I came across the feature image of a magnificent coat in a shop window. I had not noticed the colorless maniquein when I observed the coat in person at a chic shop on Dedalou Street in the pedestrian center.
All I could think of is how my beautiful wife Mihaela would love this coat, and how she would look stunning with just the right lipstick, and a pair of tall, red, lace up boots. And as I type this it occurs to me that hope, the memories and the beauty we all hold in our hearts, these things are what Christmas is about. And hope, the ultimate promise, the assurance that all things are possible and real, with a wave of the hand of God.
It will be a Merry Christmas 2021, after all!