HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsIs it a gloomy, lonely Christmas again?

Is it a gloomy, lonely Christmas again?

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Christmas is here again! Various restaurants and hotels are already decorating their premises with fancy adornments.

Saturday Dialogue with Ropafadzo Mapimhidze

Shopkeepers are waiting patiently for customers to throng their shops in large numbers to buy food and clothes.

But this seems to a thing of the past.

Parties and fanfare that used to characterise the festive season seem to have fizzled out as people begin to plan for 2014, a future that seems bleak.

December used to be the month of impulse buying exchanging of gifts, but I have not seen any bulk buying at various leading retailers in Harare.

Stocks are just not moving.

It is the month when new clothes and furniture are bought by, for instance, civil servants that receive a 13th cheque each year.

The mood this year is subdued with workers asking what the New Year has in store for them.

I have so far received just one Christmas greetings card from a seed company this year.

Last year, I received four cards from some family members in England and that was it.

Years ago, my home and desk at work would be decorated with scores and scores lively, bright and fancy cards from friends and relatives.
Even the e-messages have not been forthcoming this year, a reflection that all is not well in our economy.

A tuck-shop owner in my residential area complained yesterday that Christmas crackers which normally sell like hot cakes were still packed on the store shelves.

“I ordered these from South Africa two months ago, because people love to crack these around the festive season. But I have only sold one packet that has four crackers each. Business is at its lowest.”

I took a stroll along Harare’s central business district (CBD) pavements and the picture I saw was generally depressing.

Shops are not making the profits they usually rake in around this time and I doubt if some of them will be in business next year.

A worker at a shop along Robert Mugabe Road said there are days when not a single item is bought from their business.

She says people just walk past and rentals have become a challenge for business people who are failing to raise cash from products in stock.

The worker said on a good day she makes $30, translating to about two or three sales.

“The owners are planning to move further north to Sudan where they have found new business opportunities in that country.

“My Nigerian boss is actually paying me from his pocket because the revenue generated from this shop is not enough to cover salaries and rent.”

A close friend said that his children will eat what he can afford because he is already in rental arrears for the house that he rents.

He said it would be shameful to be kicked out of the house after spending so much on food and clothes.

The rising cost of food, erratic power supply and cash problems are some of the challenges hindering shopping.

People that have move money are also caught in these problems as buying for example meat in bulk, is not advisable because of the erratic power supplies.

A vendor in the CBD complained that sales have been low for the past three months but he was hopeful that there could be an upsurge of shoppers next week as Christmas draws closer.

“My tomatoes and bananas are going bad and hence the reason I have decided to concentrate on dry vegetables and fruits like oranges and apples that have a much longer shelf life.”

Whilst people gather as families regardless whether there is anything good to eat, let’s remember the lonely people out there.

Christmas time is a period of thanksgiving, remembering the good times we have had in face of economic problems.

It’s a time when you have to knock at neighbours, doors and get to know them better. I hardly see my neighbours throughout the year because of work schedules.

But there are so many widows, widowers, orphans and single people that need a cheer from all of us.

What of the “empty nest syndrome” affecting some elderly people around our neighbourhoods.

Empty nest syndrome, according to Wikipedia, is a feeling of grief and loneliness parents or guardians may feel when their children leave home for the first time, such as to live on their own or to attend a college or university.

It is not a clinical condition.

Since a young adult moving out from his or her parents’ house is generally a normal and healthy event, the symptoms of empty nest syndrome often go unrecognised.

This can result in depression and a loss of purpose for parents, since the departure of their children from “the nest” leads to adjustments in parents’ lives.

Empty nest syndrome is especially common in full time mothers.

I am also a parent that suffers from that syndrome and I feel the emptiness so much around this time of the year.

But, I got a cheer from my company chairman, who called me and sang a happy birthday song over the phone.

He made my day as that made me happy, feel special and lifted my spirits. It’s good to be remembered on a day like this, which is five days away before Christmas.

This really meant a lot to me and it really made me real good.

What I will perhaps do this Christmas is visit one or two “empty nests” in my neighbourhood and share cupcakes which I will bake for the festivities.

Otherwise let’s all celebrate, regardless of the circumstances, and remember the joy and true meaning of Christmas.

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